Lukas Graham has hit the ground running in 2016 with the release of their self-titled album, a worldwide tour going into next year and a number of televised performances. Founded in Copenhagen in 2010, the four-member act is known for Billboard-topping hits, like “Mama Said,” “You’re Not There,” and “7 Years,” which appear on their Certified Gold first album. On Wednesday, November 16, Lukas Graham will be returning to Salt Lake City to perform their radio hits at The Complex. Salt Lake magazine had the opportunity to catch up with the band’s lead singer and songwriter Lukas Forchhammer on his inspirations, his dealings with fame and how he feels returning to the beehive state.
SLM: I just wanted to start by talking about the break that you’re just returning from, a bit of paternity leave. So, first of all, congratulations.
FORCHHAMMER: Thank you very much.
SLM: Family and community have had large influences on your music. As a new father, how do you see that role inspiring your future work?
FORCHHAMMER: Well I write songs about what I’m going through and what I see and what’s happening. So, I am already writing some songs about the newfound perils of fatherhood. But, the main aspect, I think, is still just touching people. It being a song about family or it being a song about children or it being a song about my happiness, my success or my father. I just want to touch people. I like to have an influence with the music.
SLM: I think that does come through a lot in your music. You have become kind of a voice for the current generation with themes of nostalgia and uncertainty. How do you feel about that role?
FORCHHAMMER: Well you could say we have a society right now that’s more interested in information than knowledge. And is more interested in fame than quality. Is more interested in celebrity-ism than music. I don’t know how many million people have become refugees because of the war that has been happening in Syria. And what we’re talking about is Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton when, at the end of the day, both of them should just go away and then we’ll start over with a new election and new politicians. It’s like our whole world has gone to hell and we’re all just focused on these pedestal people: celebrities put on pedestals, or politicians or businessmen put on pedestals. And at the end of the day, let’s look at it, 52% of Congress, I believe, are millionaires, while only 2-3% of Americans are millionaires. So at the end of the day, Congress isn’t really representing the people anymore, Congress is representing a marginal part of society, which is the rich people. And it just happens that way sometimes in societies. It’s the same in Europe, where we’re from, it’s the same in Denmark. That politicians are now so wealthy that they’ve kind of lost touch with where they came from. And you can say that’s where I’m a little bit different because I might be a successful man making a lot of money now, but I grew up wearing secondhand clothes. I grew up in a house that didn’t have a toilet and a bathroom before I was six years old. I remember walking a mile to go to the public bathhouse in our community. And to some extent, I wish people would become more real. Right now, you have this trend that says poor people are poor because they chose to be. That poor people somehow don’t work as hard as rich people, which I know for a fact not to be true. Sorry, I’m digressing away from the music.
SLM: I think a lot of people would agree with you and its especially appropriate today [Election Day]. My next question was actually, maybe unfortunately, about your fame and what you feel about it, whether you think it’s good or bad. So how do you feel about this boom of success?
FORCHHAMMER: I’m not a fan of fame. It’s really hard to explain it because everyone’s like “oh you should just be happy that people want a picture with you.” And I say, “why should I be happy that my private time with my newborn child and the mother of my child is being obstructed by people who want a selfie with me on the streets of New York?” How can that ever be a good thing? Stopping people on the street, saying “can I have a picture with you?” That can never be a good thing. And its as if this whole selfie culture has turned into a privilege. Justin Bieber said it so nicely in his press release, when he said, “I’m not ever going to take a selfie again because buying my record does not infer the right to get a selfie.” And, I mean, look the kid, it’s hard enough for him, you know what I mean. And then you have all the press talking s*** about the guy. I mean, he’s been world famous for ten years and he didn’t get to be a kid, he didn’t get to be a teenager. So, definitely, I think some of the things Justin Bieber has done over this last bit of time are some of the best things he’s ever done, for himself and other people.
SLM: There have been many instances of celebrities being bombarded on the streets lately. How do you balance lack of privacy between the want to connect with people through your music? How do you push yourself forward past that frustration?
FORCHHAMMER: I just don’t mind it. I just kind of go around my daily business. The problem isn’t the children, it’s the parents. The parents get offended that I won’t take a picture with their children, but if the children ask me for a selfie, I say, “hey honey, I don’t do selfies because I’m a father myself and I’d rather just be a father than be a famous father.” And I had this eight-year-old girl look at me and say, “you know what mister, I understand that. Because I would hate if my father was famous and we got stopped on the street everyday.” And she gave me a high-five, she thought it was so cool. But you have these parents who look at me and say, “why won’t you give my child a picture.” And I’m thinking, you’re being an obtuse, obnoxious mom. You’re being a bad parent right now, teaching your child that this behavior is okay because it’s not. And right now, with the whole cell phone vibe, parents are just being very bad examples for their kids.
SLM: Again, I think many people, especially other celebrities, would agree with you there.
FORCHHAMMER: And a lot of people would think I was an arrogant a**hole to even assume that I had the right to a private life after releasing music in the public eye. And that’s the part that I find very, very worrying.
SLM: So putting your personal experiences into music, you have said before that you’re not a “soul” singer, but you are “soulful.”
FORCHHAMMER: (laughing) Everybody wants to put a genre on music. They want to put everything in brackets and boxes. There’s a good saying that says, “I don’t know what I like but I like what I know.” And that’s why people need genres to like music, but I just like music. Regardless of genre, if it’s good music then I like to listen if its classical, jazz, funk, pop, soul, rap. So what we do is we just take the musical influences that we like and we mix them and put them into this eclectic music potpourri. And sometimes it works and sometimes it really doesn’t. There are some songs where we just kind of throw them out and start from scratch because they just get a little too weird. That’s kind of what you get when you experiment, you get a lot of unwanted children.
SLM: When you’re touring, when you’re performing, how do you sustain the emotion and energy behind your music?
FORCHHAMMER: Well one of the tricks is to not work too much. Don’t listen to the promotion companies, the booking companies, the agents, the management and the record labels who say, “do more, do more, do more.” No, no, no, do less, do less, do less! Don’t work your a** off tirelessly every single day. When you’re selling music, you are selling feelings. You’re selling experiences and emotions. And you can’t just put a formula on it and bottle it. That’s when it become really difficult because, like you said, you need to sustain this emotional expression throughout a tour, which can be really, really hard. I need to dig up feelings about my dead father every single night I go on stage. I need to think about what position I’m putting my family in with all this fame and celebrity-ism every time I go on stage or do an interview on the phone or the radio. So, everything I do with my life and my job, is reminding me that my privacy is at peril, that my father’s dead, that I have a responsibility to this infant child. So yeah, you could say my job is very much bringing my personal life onto the stage. And in some sense that’s very empowering. Because a journalist can just listen to the album and then there’s not a scandalous article left to write after that. Yes, I smoke weed, I drink, I have friends in jail who have done very not nice things from murder to gun running to drugs and extortion. I mean, everything I’ve been through is on the records. Everything I’m going through is going to be on the next record and the next record and the next record. So, in some sense, I’m trying to avoid the interviews because fans can get to know me from the music. And that’s a privilege.
SLM: Last question, you have been to Salt Lake before. The show sold out, you have a pretty big fanbase here. How do you feel about Salt Lake, are you excited to return?
FORCHHAMMER: We are very much excited to return. We enjoyed Salt Lake City a lot. For me, it was also the whole thing about arriving in a city where there are ice-capped mountains around you. You just get something special in Utah. You’re so far away from everything you would say is American in New York or L.A. Then you get to Salt Lake City or Denver, Colorado and then you’re in the real America. You get to see what’s in between the coasts. I think that’s probably what makes us very special as a band and as a touring orchestra. We really enjoy when we get to see the real America, middle America, what’s not New York and L.A.
Lukas Graham will be performing at the Complex located at 536 West 100 South in downtown Salt Lake City. Tickets are $25 in advance and doors open at 7 p.m. on November 16. For more information, click here.