With just one little song, Danish outfit Lukas Graham has burst beyond their borders and have conquered charts across the planet.
The band’s single ‘7 Years’ smashed the No.1 spot over in the UK, has been sitting pretty at No.1 on the ARIA singles chart for six long weeks and has just improved to a new peak of No.2 on the Billboard singles chart in the US.
We hop on the phone to Lukas Graham’s lead singer, Lukas Graham, for our latest Pop Chat.
Let’s talk first about the burgeoning success in the US. It hasn’t quite hit the No.1 spot there yet, but surely it’s only a matter of time?
We have this kind of philosophy that we hope for everything, but expect nothing. But yeah, we’re hoping. It’s quite extraordinary for four guys from a little country to be able to experience this kind of success worldwide.
Is there one particular territory it’s hit No.1 that you’ve been most surprised by?
I think all over the place. It’s gone so quickly. Some of the charts in Japan, in Taiwan and some other Asian countries where we weren’t expecting an English-speaking song to be hitting. It was quite spectacular. But the most fun place was in Ireland, where I get texts from my cousins about them hearing ‘7 Years’ down the chippery.
And is there a place in the world that the No.1 has meant most to you?
England, in terms of all the bands that have been No.1 in England before. We even broke a small record in terms of… we were the longest sitting number one for the past few years in Britain. And that’s an extraordinary feat. But to be allowed to travel the world with your music is just an extraordinary opportunity.
So what is it about ‘7 Years’ that you think’s resonated so well with audiences across the world?
Well I think it’s because everyone can relate to the age aspect of the song. And I guess when there isn’t really a real hook, there’s more storytelling for people to latch on to and relate to in terms of their own lives. And I don’t think it was anything I was thinking about or we were thinking about when the song was being written or produced, but it does give an empowering view of growing older, having kids and stuff. So people have a big connection to it.
We were going to say… it almost feels like a ‘taking stock’ song. One of looking back on your life and seeing where you’ve been, where you are at this point in time and what the future might hold. Is it semi autobiographical?
Some of it is, I guess. But most of it is speculation. It was a cool experience to write the song, definitely.
How did it come about?
We were in the studio with my producers and a songwriter named Don Stefano, who I write most of my songs with. And out in the kitchen, Morten Ristorp, one of the producers, was playing the piano and came up with that piano line that opens up the song. And I was lying on the couch half asleep and just got up singing some lyrics over it. We just started writing, writing, writing and I think three and a half hours later, we had the full song.
Not a lot. There is a girl right now, MØ, who’s had a couple of good songs out and had a really big smash with Major Lazer with ‘Lean On’ last year. And then a rock band, Volbeat, which has been touring in the States a lot in the past year. But no, it’s not a usual thing for the Danes to go outside of the Scandinavian or European pocket, no.
Given you’re still seen as a pretty new act in these parts of the world, tell us a little bit about the band’s history.
Well we all went to the same music high school pre-college and me and Mark the drummer started the band ten years ago. And six years ago, I started writing the songs with Don Stefano, who I was also writing with in high school. In 2011, we started playing our first shows, got a record deal and started playing all around Denmark and Scandinavia. And we just always had our sights set a little higher, I guess. We kept working up, up, up, getting to play in Germany and then finally America and now in England. Hopefully we’ll come down under soon.
We do find it oddly prophetic that one of the songs on your album is entitled ‘Take The World By Storm’…
(laughs). Yeah, if you believe in something enough, you’ll get it, you know. It’s a good old saying, but it’s quite amazing.
So did you write that song with global success in mind?
Oh definitely. We were all in a very anxious place right before we finished that record. We were going to release first in Denmark and then around the world and we’re getting ready to release it across the world now. So I think we had to write a couple of songs about taking the world by storm, just to be able to relax about trying to carry out that task.
You’ve experienced a pretty extraordinary level of success in Denmark, but do you feel that this burgeoning success through the rest of the world puts added pressure on you to replicate it with whatever comes next?
Not yet. I think we’re quite relaxed as a group in terms of being able to write songs that are just as good as ‘7 Years’ or even better. Or even some of the other songs on the album that can compete with it in terms of being good songs for radio and the audience. So I feel we’re in a really comfortable place. We’ve been working really really hard towards this thing and now that it’s happening, it feels very right, even though it feels very weird as well. But yes, I think we’ll be doing fine.
Where does the global market go from here for you? Will you give ‘Mama Said’ another shot for the international market?
Yeah, I think we’re looking at ‘Mama Said’ and several other songs getting re-released around the world as singles. But I don’t know what’s going to follow up ‘7 Years’ as it is right now. ‘Mama Said’ looks like it’s in a very good place to do so in America and England and other countries where people are listening to it a lot. Maybe a song like ‘You’re Not There’? Go dark and deep on it? But yeah, we have so many different songs on the record that could be big singles, so let’s see what happens.
Well we suppose the good thing about doing a single that’s a little bit out of the box is that you give audiences who are perhaps unfamiliar with your other work a taste of what else you can do!?
Yeah, exactly. I think it’s very good that with ‘7 Years’, people know that we’re not a traditional pop act. Both in terms of the lyrical content, the way the music is being produced and the way I’m singing it. I think it’s good that there’s a bit of an edge to it.
So this debut international album of yours… it’s a hybrid of your recent Danish LP, along with material from your debut and a couple of newbies…?
There are two songs from our debut album, ‘Better Than Yourself’ and ‘Drunk In The Morning’ and then a bunch of new material. And it’s very good snapshot of being from 20 to 30 in terms of growing up and me losing my father and talking about success and the ambitions of life. Also more of the easy, frivolous songs like ‘Drunk In The Morning’ or ‘Strip No More’, where you address some of the more fun aspects of being a young man.
Some of the stuff you wrote when you were a little younger, perhaps?
No! (laughs) ‘Strip No More’ is actually quite a new addition.
‘Drunk In The Morning’, however…?
Oh yeah. ‘Drunk In The Morning’ was written a little earlier, but I think a lot of people around the world can still connect to a good old booty call in the middle of the morning, you know?
Well clearly you’ll be presented with the opportunity for plenty more of those with the success you’re experiencing across the planet, no?
Nah! Not a lot of people have my phone number. And I don’t do the Facebook thing, so I’m good. I get my privacy!
The press release for your new single talks about the band in terms of ‘he’ and ‘his’. Do you think there’s been some confusion surrounding the fact that Lukas Graham is both your own name and the name of the band? Presumably both are correct, yes?
Kind of, yes. It’s a funny little dualistic thing that we’ve got going on. It’s a good entry point for conversation. You can say we are a band. If you come and see a live show or a concert, there’s a lot of energy tied up in the four of us and the way we play together and communicate on stage. But if you sit at home and listen to the album or just listen to the lyrics, they are my stories and they are my songs and I was writing all these stories and putting together my particular sound before the band was formed. So it was only natural that the name was ‘Lukas Graham’ and not ‘The Revolvers’ or ‘The Lizards’ or something weird.
So the other boys are obviously fine with performing under your name?
Yeah, they’re fine. They’re all good.
And as far as live shows are concerned, are you planning to come on down here any time soon?
Hopefully, I don’t know. Everything’s moving so fast right now. We’re just trying to keep up. Our American tour’s almost sold out, our English concerts are sold out, we’ve got a bunch of stuff to do over the summer and hopefully we get to come Down Under.
Is it a case of you being a little overawed by the success?
I think there’s a certain part of me that’s just not quite processed it. It’s quite an extraordinary thing to have one of the biggest songs in the world right now. At the same time, we haven’t been out there playing the shows, we haven’t gotten the attention from people, so it’s also been a bit unfathomable. Right now, it’s also just a lot of numbers on paper.
It’ll start resonating with you once your bank balance starts ticking over, perhaps?
I don’t know. We never really were economically motivated. Money, of course, is nice and gives you a bit of freedom, but there are some other, more fundamental things you need to have to be happy and appreciate success. I think when we get to play these big, sold out shows and meet people who’ve been touched by our music, that’s when it’s going to be felt deeply and starts resonating. And we’ll begin to know that we’re doing something good with our lives.
Lukas Graham’s hit single ‘7 Years’ is available now.
Their self-titled international debut album is out today.