If it seems like Lukas Graham came out of nowhere, it’s because the Danish pop group sort of did. Frontman Lukas Forchhammer grew up in a small, rough Copenhagen neighborhood called Christiania that was founded by anarchist squatters and boasts a population, he estimates, of around 800 people. So seeing the group’s self-titled album rise to Number Three on the Billboard 200 and their breakout single “7 Years” make it to Number Two has made Forchhammer become, in his own words, “this humble little boy.”
Forchhammer previously told Rolling Stone about how rough it was growing up in Christiania, where he learned “how to mix a Molotov cocktail before I knew how to mix a Long Island iced tea.” The police presence in Christiania was so pervasive, the singer remembers puncturing their trucks’ tires with nails and throwing rocks at authorities. He’s since learned how to channel his frustration into his music with his band, which presents a much more joyous and emotional outlook. It’s a shift he’s experiencing in real time.
“I’m allowed to do this for a living?” he asks Rolling Stone humbly. “I don’t know how to thank all the people listening to our music. It’s so amazing to come home to my friends who resist conformity, because they’re so happy that I’ve made it. I feel I owe it to them to keep going and just fucking beat this.”
How would you describe Christiania, where you grew up?
I would describe it as a utopian place to grow up if you’ve got your parents living together and working regular jobs. There’s just this sense of community. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody helps everybody. You know the names of your friends’ parents.
“When the police arrested a lot of the weed dealers in my neighborhood, gangs from the city tried to move in.”
Is it a rough neighborhood?
It is, in the sense that police come in, in riot gear, and shoot tear gas all over the place. It’s a rough neighborhood in the sense that the government has always threatened to throw us out and close it down. So there’s a certain fear that manifests in the children of the neighborhood. And the children vent it as anger. They don’t know it’s fear ’til they grow up. If we had recreational marijuana like they have for American states, then our neighborhood would be fine and dandy.
What do you mean?
When the police arrested a lot of the weed dealers in my neighborhood, gangs from the city tried to move in. When you remove a powerful force, someone is going to try to fill that vacuum. That made it quite tough to grow up there.
What was school like for you?
People treated me differently because I came from Christiania. Teachers would blame me for things because of where I came from. I started out a very, very mellow kid, very social, but I ended up quite a diabolic youth. Teachers and police officers and other kids’ parents all treated me differently. My friends weren’t allowed to come to my home because of my neighborhood – despite the fact my neighborhood has the lowest violence in the inner city.