In 2017 Hannah McPhillimy, aka ferna, moved to Michigan, USA for two years. This relocation inspired the sounds and sentiment for “New City”, the third release from her debut album, Understudy (out Spring 2023).
Exuberant synths, homemade drum kits (literally, made from a suitcase) and dispassionate vocals, this track visits both the euphoria of beginning again and the pain of having a reason to leave in the first place.
“Trying to hold onto a sense of who you are, while also shedding an old skin. It’s the tension between those things.” - ferna
The accompanying music video, conceived and directed by artist and film-maker Alice Eugenie, is a short film depicting relocation in another way: moving home. It shows the transplant of Eliza Frew, a Greta Gerwig-esque twenty something, back to her depressing hometown. Over the course of the video, she comes to reframe it as a humble paradise.
“One of the main themes I wanted to explore was the feeling of stuck-ness and overwhelm. I played on the origins of the song’s creation in the US by flipping the concept round, creating a character who has returned to seaside suburbia in Northern Ireland.” Alice explains. Both she and ferna are from the North Coast, where the video is set.
“Eliza traverses the lines between familiarity and alienation, mundane repetition and the feeling that nothing is the same anymore. Those of us with more temperamental sensibilities will find no issue with how quickly she arrives in her New City by the end of the track!”
Expanding on how they worked together, ferna explains: “Alice is the amazing artist behind the artwork for my singles, so it was special to have her create the video for “New City”. I gave her the freedom to interpret the song for herself and I love the result.
Although the character is dealing with a different move to what I wrote about, the questions are all the same: how do I reconcile my past with the life I have now? Is one better than the other? Is there such a thing as a ‘fresh start’?”
“The future is bright for ferna” – ATL, BBC Introducing
“One of Northern Ireland’s most adaptable and imaginative young songwriters”