The Artist Explains: Hattie Whitehead - 'Ups and Downs'

Hattie Whitehead talks to us about her moving cinematic music video for warm indie folk single, ‘Ups and Downs’ which tackles the themes of bereavement and grief.

Where was the video for 'Ups and Downs' filmed?
Hollow Ponds, Epping Forest and director, Ben’s flat. A tour of Walthamstow for one weekend only! And the closest my music will ever get to East 17...

How does the video connect with the song?
It revolves around the same theme of loss. I wrote the song in a period of my life where everything felt very unsettled, and I felt very lonely. At that point I was just about getting through day to day life. Everyday tasks and social encounters consumed pretty much all my energy, leaving no room to think about anything creative. Looking back, I had built up a wall to the inner workings of my brain and creativity as a coping mechanism. The video shows Fionn's character going through the same motions, with creativity being replaced with the act of remembering the lost friend. The video kind of ends up being a more comforting response to my state at the point of writing ‘Ups and Downs,’ as it highlights the solace that can be found in remembering a lost loved one and ends with a more positive outlook.

Do you have any behind the scenes stories you can share with us?
We filmed with a relatively small crew over 2 days, which was quite a tight squeeze for the amount we needed to get done. It all feels like a bit of a whirlwind now; some hilarious moments, some intense moments, laughing, crying, dangling expensive film equipment from trees and off the side of a boat. At the point of filming the scene in the shower, my brother's acting hit me right between the eyes. I was in tears, big sister mode fully activated and worrying about Fionn whilst three men watched a fourth shower him. It was all a bit weird looking back! Oh and we almost had an extra special cameo at one point in the form of a drunk man in a panda costume who was rowing across the pond.

Could you tell us about the ideas/ themes/ imagery used?
The video demonstrates the inner battles we face when processing the loss of a loved one. The flashbacks give us an insight into the relationship and the shots of Fionn on his own communicate the loneliness and changing emotions of grieving. The two signifiers of the friend's memory are music (the CD and walkman) and the necklace he wears. The boat is the main character's way of escaping everyday life without his friend, and finding a peaceful place where he can remember him fondly. You see his acceptance when he finally listens to his friend's music and holds his necklace close.

Is there a message the video is trying to convey?
There are so many emotions wrapped up in bereavement. In my experience, it's confusing, surreal and deeply sad but can also have windows of appreciation and positivity. Those first few ingredients do not generally make for everyday conversation, particularly in our society. There's so much awkwardness around the subject despite the fact that we'll all experience loss at some point. As a result losing someone can be such an isolating and lonely experience on top of the heartbreak and every other emotion to be dealt with. In my experience, reading other people's stories and listening to podcasts about grief helped to ground and comfort me through difficult periods and I hope that in being a bit less reserved about this topic myself that others can relate and feel a sense of solidarity; like they're not alone even if their circumstances and experiences differ. Since releasing the video, I've had messages from people far and wide sharing their own stories in response to the video and it's an incredibly humbling experience that completes the cycle of making music for me.

Interview by Karla Harris