MFD Interviews: Sara Hausenkamp (55 Cancri e) on creating her own planet.

The music of 55 Cancri e came to the attention of Music For Dreams via a modest cassette release on the Swedish experimental label Zeon Light back in 2014. Since then we have seen both the re-release of that EP on vinyl and this summer came the full length album, called Att Lämna Tellus (read our feature on that here).
We had a chance to speak to Sara Hausenkamp, the curious young artist behind the alias, about her musical universe. For the sleeve art (done by Sara herself) we see Sara herself holding a briefcase in a landscape that could easily be mistaken for a set design from an early Star Trek episode. 

MFD: When listening to your music, at least for me, it is very hard to pinpoint any direct musical influences. And yet there is a strangely familiar vibe in many of your songs. Do you have any explanation for this? 

SH: Maybe because I don’t have any certain musical influences when I do my music. Or at least I’m not thinking that ”I want to make music in this particular style” when I write music. Of course I have my favorite bands like everyone else but I think I more often fall in love with songs rather than artists and then it doesn’t matter if it’s classical music or the latest radio hit. It’s all about the feeling, the chords and the melodies. I don’t care what genre it is and I think I’m like that with everything. I don’t like to put myself in a certain category when it comes to anything. I love contrast and I love to be surprised and get my thoughts and view of life challenged and just try to be as open minded as possible.

building-mountainsBuilding mountains for a photo shoot

But even if everything that inspires me to do music and art can seem very confusing when you put it all together I think I always manage to make it come out of me in a focused way. I feel like everything I create, no matter if it’s a drawing, photo, music, text or a hand painted shirt, all belongs together somehow. It’s all from the same universe. That is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid, expressing myself through creating new worlds and mini universes. I can’t make a drawing or a song without creating a complete story around it. I think it’s a way for me to understand what I am creating but also a way of making it easier for other people to understand my thoughts. I’ve never been much for talking so then you come up with alternative ways of expressing your feelings.

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On the planet 55 Cancri e. Photo by Emmalisa Pauly

MFD: The album as a whole comes across as a concept album, from first to last track following this fantastic journey of leaving earth to settle on a new planet. How did this idea come about? 

SH: The demos for ”Att lämna Tellus” part 1-3 was something I recorded many years ago actually. I don’t remember exactly when but almost 4 years ago I think. It was fall and I was making a collage-fanzine at the same time with a similar story to that one of the album and these songs just came to me.
I didn’t have any equipment except my guitar, my laptop and some random percussions and was just recording through the mic on the laptop. Really bad quality but I felt more freedom than I ever felt before creating music. I think I always make the best things when I have almost nothing to work with. Endless amounts of possibilities, when it comes to equipment and so on, just makes me less creative.
And with those demos the whole idea of a music project like ”55 Cancri e” slowly came to life. So I’ve been kind of saving those tracks for an album ever since and at the same time collecting other songs along the way that would fit to the story.
When I started recording 4 years ago I was still living in Malmö but I was at a point in my life where I knew that I wanted and needed to go somewhere else in the world. Meet new people and see what I was capable of doing on my own. A couple of months later I moved to Berlin. So you might say that the album is about that journey but it’s also about a feeling that I think I will always have where I don’t feel fully at home anywhere. I kind of like that, even if it’s a constant feeling of never being complete, it also makes you more brave and less afraid of trying new things.

MFD: I guess Berlin in some ways makes for the perfect place for that sense of alienation, of not truly belonging, wouldn’t you agree? With so many different kinds of people from all over the world living there, it’s a city that is constantly changing. 

SH: Perfect in the sense that you are surrounded by people who feels the same way and are looking for similar things in life. But it doesn’t really help you find peace. Berlin is a whirlwind of people, emotions, inspiration and creativity. It brings you so much energy and drains you completely at the same time. You easily feel at home here and Berlin is full of amazing people. But it’s also very easy to feel lost and lonely in such a big city. People are coming and going in a very fast pace and everything is changing so fast that 1 year easily can feel like 10. But I’m very happy I moved here. It helped me grow as a person and as an artist and still does every day. It definitely changed my life for the better.

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55 Cancri e live at Grand in Malmö, backed by touring band member Antonino Modica. Photo by Emmalisa Pauly.

MFD: The track “Rävjakt” comes off as a bit of a sidetrack to the albums concept, as the lyrics tells the tale of a animals revolting against their hunters. As I understand, the political stand on animal rights is a subject close to your heart?  

SH: Well I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15 and a vegan since 19 so yes, animal rights is definitely a subject close to my heart and I really wanted to make a song about that. But I see this song and the theme of the song as something that can be applicable to any kind of struggle or fight against injustice in the world. The hunters and the animals can be a metaphor for a lot of different things. And even though it might come off as a side track I still thought it was fitting to the story of being really tired of it all and searching for something new.

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Words & interview by Simon Eliasson for Music For Dreams.