Even if you don't know the name Lukas Graham, you've almost certainly heard the Danish band's hit song "7 Years" The infectious track was at the top of the charts around the world, including in the United States. It was even nominated for Song of the Year at the 2017 Grammy Awards (the band received two other nominations, as well).
Despite the newfound attention, the four bandmates are as low-key as ever. On a recent summer weekend, they were in Montauk, New York, as part the Surf Lodge Summer Concert Series, presented by The Lincoln Motor Company, for one final show before heading back to Denmark. "Since our quite phenomenal rise to recognition here in America, we’ve done two American solo tours," explains Lukas Forchhammer, the band's lead singer. "We’ve been here non stop for like a year and a half."
Forchhammer was especially excited to return home after the show--his wife gave birth to their first child in September. "I miss her! I miss my little baby and my wife a lot," he said. But it's been an extremely interesting journey for the singer, who, himself, has lived an unusual life. Forchhammer grew up in Christiania, an autonomous commune in Copenhagen, where there are no cars, no police, very few amenities, and, perhaps most notably, legalized marijuana. Today, in addition to being in a hit band, he also owns a construction business and several restaurants in Copenhagen.
But, music is still a top priority. The band has been working on new music since the fall. "I tend to romanticize things a little, so if I don’t write it down now and work with the emotion I have now then I sometimes I miss the chance," he explains. "You’ve got that one opportunity to deliver on something unique and emotional and powerful."
It will be a tough act to follow up on their hit album, but Forchhammer is confident. "We've been doing this a long time," he says. "I love [when people hear us play because they liked '7 Years'], because that gives us a chance to win them over." Here, Forchhammer reveals what is inspiring him now, reflects on everything he's seen while exploring the United States, and shares what he's been eating, reading, watching, and listening to while on tour:
What was your favorite part about traveling across the United States?
We finally got to see all the things to see in America that you read about, and you see in movies. Before, we’d only been to New York and L.A. Now, we've seen the middle of America, too--everything in between the coasts, we've gone through the South. You just get enthralled at how big this place is. I think we're missing like 15 states and then we'll have been to all of them. But the best part? For us it’s the food. I own a bunch of restaurants--not by myself, with some friends back home [in Denmark]. We have five restaurants... my bass player has the best burger joint in town. So food was always the centerpiece.
What state had the best food?
I really liked the Texas-style barbecue. You actually have more veg in it than say a Tennessee barbecue or an Alabama barbecue. You got the okra, you’ve got your broccoli casserole.... you’ve got some stuff going on, that we haven’t tasted before coming from where we’re from. Besides that, the white sauce in Alabama had me going like, woo!
What is the first thing you read in the morning?
I don’t read a lot in the morning. I've never been a morning reader. I used to read newspapers, but now I kind of just lay in bed and roam around. I read a lot in the evenings and when I travel, though.
What do you read at night?
Books. Magazines aren’t enthralling enough. You never get anywhere. What I like about books is you can go back after five years and read it again. Magazines are just looking for the newest trends. I read history. My older sister has a degree in English literature and culture with a specific interest in immigration. Our father was Irish, so we kind of have that ex-Pat feeling. Since my father died [earlier this year], she's given me a ton of books; the latest one she gave me was Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Sons. I read the Kite Runner before, and I really like that one. I like reading real books especially from oppressive regimes, like Dostoyevsky, because when you read the literature of an oppressed population you realize that that’s us. It’s so real.
Where do you get your news?
Oh, I read everything--CNN, BBC, even Russia Today... I think it’s very true to bring up what Malcolm X said a long time ago, that the media is the most important entity in our world they have the power to make the guilty innocent and the innocent guilty because they have control over the masses. Everyone I know when they pick up a newspaper, they read it and they think it’s true. We have to remember that anything that has been in the news has been selected, it has been groomed. We can never read everything that’s going on, and we’re not supposed to live with our heads in the sand like ostriches and not read the news, either. So what are we supposed to do here as people? Think critically about what you’re reading, don’t trust everything, but check data and backstories. You’d think with Google, people would do this a little more but they don’t.
Do you watch any TV?
I don’t even have a TV at home. I have a TV screen that I plug into the computer or the playstation to watch specific things. It was actually a conscious decision on my part after the baby got there, like I don’t want to be the family with the TV. I don’t want to be the family that gives the iPad to the children because we’re tired of entertaining the children. I want to be a dad like my father was a dad. If the children won't sleep, lets go run around the block until they’re tired. I try to watch documentaries rather than movies. When we do watch something—we watch some soaps and stuff, just to chill and be like relaxed and doing nothing.
What documentaries do you like?
I just went to some of David Attenborough’s stuff with the baby. I was at the house and was just thinking, well I have to put something on, because I was home alone with the baby for the first time, and so I just watched The Blue Planet once again, just looking at our oceans and realizing goddamn! We haven’t even explored those and we’ve killed it!
What's your favorite album of all time?
Dr. Dre’s 2001, the follow up to The Chronic, released in 1999. That album spoke to me in a special way, but then again I grew up in a marginalized neighborhood. I didn’t think a lot of European kids of my skin color could relate to it in that sense, but like the first time I got strip searched by the police I was 10. When 2001 came out I was 13, and like it just said everything.
What’s the last song that you listened to?
We were just listening to some songs... I cant remember the name of the band, but it’s quite new actually. “It’s such a shame, the way you mess around with your man. Such a shame, the way you hurt me…” but nah, unfortunately we don’t get to listen to too much music on the road, because you’re in a bus with a bunch of people or you’re on a plane with a bunch of people. I hate listening to music on headphones, I want a stereo. Right now we’re not listening to enough, especially since we’re about to go back into the creative cycle. But I have been listening to a lot of the newest Anderson Paak stuff, and I’ve been going back to some of the old Dr. Dre and Eminem records just to get that lyrical content and to get back to the realness of the music and the lyrics.
Do you ever get to go to concerts, or listen to live music?
Sometimes, yeah. At festivals especially try to go out and see other acts. Some festivals are good about making it possible and some aren’t. At Hang Out Fest in Alabama I really wanted to go see Chance the Rapper and it was just too stormy and rainy and we ended up just having drinks in the backstage instead. It’s not that I don’t like going to concerts – quite the contrary, I love going to concerts- but when you get to a certain level sometimes going to a concert just means taking selfies with people, instead of actually enjoying somebody playing music.
Do you prefer playing big or small shows?
Both are a necessity; they accentuate each other. When you’re playing small shows you get more nervous because you’re looking at everyone you can see individuals having an individual experience and when you’re playing in front of 20 or 40 thousand people you’re just in front of a mass like a blur. It’s just like an ocean of colors and people.
How is it different to play a music festival compared to your own concert?
When you play your own show people show up because they want to hear your album but when you play a music festival they show up to hear a lot of other people and then they’re like, "Oh that Lukas Graham band, we know that once song, lets go check the rest out!" and I love that, because that gives us a chance to win them over. You get a chance to surprise people with your product.
What are you going to do on the plane home?
Probably going to sleep, because we’re flying out in the evening so we land at 6 in the morning? Maybe I’ll watch a movie, but I don’t generally like watching movies on planes. I did when I was younger because I was like, "Oh wow this is crazy there’s a TV on the seat!" And now I want to do stuff when I get home, so I usually just read on the plane until I fall asleep.
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