When Lukas Graham released the single “7 Years” in the summer of 2015, the band expected that the song would hit big only among northern European audiences, where its main supporters are. But by fall, the song had gone viral and made the Danish group international pop stars.
“Basically, we're a band that was broken through streaming,” says lead singer Lukas Forchhammer.
Most of the members grew up in Copenhagen’s Christiana neighborhood, an alternative community that BuzzFeed once likened to a hippie commune. Forchhammer’s family inspired his early love of music and art, but his community fostered it with free weekly concerts during the summer. Forchhammer took tickets at the door of those concerts, which featured the likes of Patti Smith and Motörhead.
The band that would eventually be known as Lukas Graham began when Forchhammer and his good friend Stefan Forrest wrote several songs together. Then Forchhammer spent some time traveling in South America and New York in 2009 and returned home determined to expand his and Forrest’s music. They recruited some high-school friends, including Mark Falgren, with whom Forchhammer had been in a folk band. By 2011, the group had solidified its core sound, which is steeped in pop, funk and R&B.
Noticeably absent from the band's lineup is a lead-guitar player (the others don't want the ego). Rhythm and melody are instead carried by vocals and, in some cases, the piano.
Though Lukas Graham is a pop band, its music is rich in storytelling, with roots in Forchhammer's Irish father's side of the family.
“You could say the storytelling element is very much from me growing up listening to Irish folk records that my father played me and that I heard in Ireland,” Forchhammer explains. “That and the tradition that children are required to entertain as much as the adults. Some of the kids would play an instrument, but I never mastered an instrument. That's my big regret, and now I'm too lazy to do it.”
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Growing up, Forchhammer would sing songs and his cousin would play instruments. “Everyone in my family was a performer,” he says. “You had parents that would say, ‘Would you stop with your circus show?’ I think in our family, our parents were like, ‘No, no, no, show us your circus show — we want to see it.’ People weren't reprimanding us for taking up time with the grownups, and in a sense, there was never really a great divide between grownups and kids in my family.”
That dynamic in Forchhammer's upbringing seems to have translated to his music, which transcends generations.
“Before my songs are released, I like to perform them for people I know, and especially for children, to see how quickly they remember the lyrics and how quickly they remember the melody,” he says.
Lukas Graham and Hein Cooper will play at the Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson Street, on Tuesday, November 15, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20.