SXSW 2017: Lukr x Vinyl Mag
“There will always be this kid inside of me that’s in the rock and roll band that’s trying to write the song to get the girl. That’s always going to be a part of who I am.”
When I picked up the phone to chat with Lukr, I didn’t expect to get a recipe for vegan queso or hear an anecdote about what it means to be a hypocrite. The self-proclaimed conversationalist was engaging, genuine and ready to share the love he has for his craft. Before long, it was clear that his down-to-earth lyrics emanate from the same place as his conversations–authenticity. Luke Foley is a man committed to using his honesty and creativity to connect with his fellow human beings.
After touring with the band he started at 17, Farewell Flight, Lukr settled down in Nashville where songwriting became his partner in crime. His debut single as a solo artist, “Fucked Up Summer,” has been deemed a viral hit on Spotify and surpassed a million streams in a mere 12 weeks. He followed that success with “Scarecrow” which also gave a stellar streaming performance. When asked what he thinks made those songs so successful, Lukr went back to the word “authenticity.” Whether fans are responding to his genuine lyrics or the catchy melodies, clearly he’s doing something right.
On February 10 of this year, he released the first installment of his mixtape series entitled Heartbreak Mixtape Vol. 1, featuring the style he describes as “neon grunge alternative pop.” Fans will get a chance to hear those new songs at his set at The Nashville House at this year’s SXSW. To find out if he prefers songwriting or performing and to hear the story behind his name, keep on reading. Plus, you just might get a restaurant recommendation for vegan tacos.
Vinyl Mag: What brought you to Nashville?
Lukr: I moved here after I had a band for a little while and did a lot of DIY, kind of blue collar touring basically. We toured a good bit around the US, but it was all self-booked. We did it for a little while, and then I thought maybe we should try a music town. I thought we’d all move to Nashville, and we’d be signed to a major deal in like a weekend of handshaking. But actually what I had to do was learn how to write a song. Before I came here, I was very protective about songwriting. I wouldn’t co-write with anybody. I think I had this need to be this creative genius that just goes off by myself in my cabin and makes a record. But I wasn’t learning anything, and it’s kind of hard to learn anything about your craft when you don’t take any kind of input from anybody else.
So, when I moved to Nashville, I just started co-writing because that’s what everybody was doing, and it just seemed to kind of make sense. Once I started doing that, I just started writing for stuff that wasn’t for me so I wasn’t afraid to take chances and do something that I would normally think was cheesy or stupid. Or, I would write styles of music that I used to just not like on principle. I still had my band but it had kind of run its course, and everybody was starting to move on and do different things here in town.
VM: What made you decide to start a solo project?
Lukr: I was always so afraid to think of myself as a solo artist just because I didn’t think I was a good enough singer or maybe I’m not a pretty guy. I mean, I think I’m okay-looking, but I’m not pretty. Or, I’m not a phenomenal dancer, and to be a solo artist you have to have this amazing range. Part of having a band for me justified that. I’m not the greatest singer in the world, but I’m the songwriter, and also I play guitar so combined that gives me enough credit to be here, right? It was an insecurity thing; I was afraid to believe in myself.
I didn’t even like the word artist because I thought it was so pretentious. I thought, I’m not an artist—I’m just a guy who does music or whatever. I was afraid to think of myself as an artist. I remember I was writing with a guy and he was talking to me one day, and I was telling him that my idea was once my band made it I would maybe start a side project for myself. And he just asked this kind of really poignant question and said, “Why do you think of yourself as a side project and your band as your main thing? You are not your own side project. You are your main project. When you do your band, that’s just you as an artist in that band.” I wept on this dude’s porch, just cried like a baby because somebody told me I was good enough.
VM: How did you get the name Lukr?
Lukr: I love nicknames. I’m always trying to get nicknames going for people. I kind of had this realization that there was this nickname I had gotten from people throughout my life totally autonomous of one another. Everybody that called me “Luker” thought they coined that nickname. My middle initial is R for Robert, which is my grandfather’s name, so my name reads like, “Luke R Foley.” I’d always wanted a nickname, and I just didn’t realize that it was right in front of me like a girl from a romantic comedy. So, that’s how I got the name Lukr. I dropped the “e” because I thought it looked a little cooler. Now, looking back, I think maybe that was kind of cheesy–it looks kind of like Tumblr or Flickr or something–but it’s too late and it’s just a name so who cares.
VM: How do you feel like your time with Farewell Flight shaped your music today?
Lukr: I think it had an influence in ways that I don’t mean it to… I think a lot of my lyrics are almost emo in a way. I think I appeal to a lot of millennials that are mid-twenties because it feels like Taking Back Sunday in a way. So, I think it still has that influence on me. There will always be this kid inside of me that’s in the rock and roll band that’s trying to write the song to get the girl. That’s always going to be a part of who I am.
VM: I definitely noticed the emo/grunge lyrics but also the pop melodies that are catchy enough to remember. How do you blend those two genres together?
Lukr: I just want to write songs that appeal to human beings where there’s no “you have to be this cool to ride this ride” kind of thing. I try to write things in a way that’s honest and real for me. Like, for me, “Fucked Up Summer” is about this experience and this person. One of the lines is “Baby, I can be your backseat lover and you can be my fucked up summer.” I picture a specific car, a specific backseat, a specific driveway. For other people, they might picture a totally different car in a parking lot—they have a different story. But there’s a way to write something that doesn’t exclude people that can still have the details in it.
VM: Do you write more about your own experiences or make up stories and then write from there?
Lukr: As of now, I just write a lot of my own experience just because it’s what I know. This is going to sound really pretentious, but I want to be the Springsteen of the millennial generation. I was born in ’85 so I wasn’t the first millennial, but I’m near the top and I feel like I’ve had the experience of what it is to be a twenty-something and what it means to go from teenager to adult and then adult to grown-up, and it’s the weirdest transition. It’s just a weird place to be, and it’s something I feel like I’m still going through, but I’m just half a block ahead of people in their twenties. I’m able to look back and kind of look at it in context and understand it better, and I don’t feel like I’ve got the sand in my eyes as much.
So, I’ll just write about, like, what it’s like to be in love with somebody and then you break up and then they get engaged to somebody else. That’s just a weird, grown-up feeling! It’s more than somebody just moving on–it’s somebody moving on in a semi-permanent way, and you’re like, “Whoa, we’re all just kids still.”
VM: Do you think that style of writing is part of the reason why your songs have done so well on Spotify?
Lukr: Honestly, I feel like it’s just the right place at the right time. Or maybe I was just in the right place all the time, and then the right time just came, so to speak. I mean, nobody had any idea who I was, and I just picked the first song I fell in love with. When the right song came along, it was “Fucked Up Summer,” and I picked it because it scared me. First of all, it has the word “fucked” in the title, and I’ve got in-laws, I’ve got a grandmother and grandfather, I’ve got a mom, I’ve got nieces and nephews–my family is not going to listen to this song. That kind of scared me, but it’s real and authentic and comes from a real place! I think I released that one because it scared me so much. It’s kind of like my rule that if something scares you, then that means you’re probably supposed to be doing it.
VM: On the flip side of songwriting, do you like performing more or less than writing?
Lukr: I mean, songwriting is still my first love, and it’s something that sort of naturally came to me and I’ve spent so much time developing. Creating the art, to me that’s the most satisfying feeling. And then performing it live is kind of like the celebration; it’s like the wedding reception. So, I like them both. I’d say if you’d asked me that question even six months ago I would’ve said, “Oh, songwriting by far is the more fulfilling thing for me.” But I’ve just recently met this amazing girl, and her name is live performance, and I’ve re-fallen back in love with her. It’s like an old flame, and it’s really exciting.
VM: That’s perfect timing since you’ll be taking the stage at SXSW soon!
Lukr: Yeah, I’m excited! This is the first time I’m ever getting to go, and it’s kind of a long-time coming fulfillment for me, but there’s also a lot of pressure on that. Recently, though, I’ve felt that anxiety just melt away, and I’ve felt the excitement. I think confidence is not cockiness—it’s just awareness of your own capabilities. We were rehearsing, and I feel so good about my band, and all of a sudden I just realized, “Oh my god, I’m playing SXSW.” I’m just excited to get out there and do it. I don’t know, I’m feeling very, very fired up about it.
VM: What shows are you playing at SXSW?
Lukr: I’m playing some SX takeover stuff on the way, but at SX I’m just doing this one showcase at Tellers Upstairs [on Tuesday, March 14]. It’s put on by Nashville pop and pop/rock artists, and it’s called The Nashville House. From what I’ve heard, it’s the very first time there’s ever been a representation of Nashville pop at SX. There’s this kind of emerging, really, really, really cool scene coming out of Nashville that’s just all pop stuff, and I think it’s one of the first times the outside world is really going to get exposed to that. I’m honestly just thrilled that they even contacted me to be a part of it!
VM: Is there a certain artist that you’re looking forward to seeing?
Lukr: NAWAS—he’s from Nashville, and I think he’s one of the most exciting things going on that I’ve heard. So, I’m super excited about him, and then obviously there’s a bunch of other awesome artists at The Nashville House.
VM: And, one last question we always have to ask is: barbecue or tacos?
Lukr: Man, that’s a tough question. I used to make a crazy barbecue that I thought was pretty good…but now, I actually eat a pretty much plant-based diet, so I don’t really eat meat anymore. I love to cook, and I love food. Food is my love language…I’d say out of those two, I’d probably go with tacos as my official answer just because I’ve had some amazing vegan tacos. There’s a place in LA called Gracias Madre, and they have these BLT tacos but it’s totally plant-based. They use this coconut bacon, and it’s amazing.
VM: Since you said you love to cook, do you have a signature dish that you love to make for people?
Lukr: I’ve got this thing that I make called “tater queso” [recipe below]. It’s kind of a recipe I got from a friend that I’ve adapted.
2 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 med taters)
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped (about half an onion)
2 cups water
1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked)
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
3 TBSP Earth Balance or Coconut oil (I half this one but it’s better with)
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
¼ tsp cumin
2 tbsp of Nooch*
*Nutritional Yeast (or “Nooch”) is this flaky deactivated yeast that looks and tastes kinda like Cheeto dust. It’s low fat, gluten free (if that’s your thing), and packed with nutrition (B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein). Find it at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Kroger (in the hippie aisle) or just order it from Amazon Prime like my lazy ass does.
1. Start by soaking those cashews in water. If you can get a few hours on them in the fridge dope, if not, still dope. Just cover ‘em up so your cat doesn’t F with them, you’ll need ‘em later.
2. In a covered saucepan, put that H20 on til it starts to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Keep a lid on this the whole time cause you you don’t want that water to reduce, we’re gonna use all of it.
3. While that wawa is heating up, start peeling them taters up, and chop em along with the carrots and onion. I like to chop em pretty fine cause they cook faster. Start throwing them in as you finish chopping and measuring.
4. Toss in the rest of that stuff as you measure it out (ending with the drained cashews). Keep that lid on! Let it simmer for a few minutes, but by the time you’re adding the last ingredient, it should be almost done. Give it 15 min or as long as you feel like it.
5. Pour the whole ding dang thing (including the water) into a blender or food processor. Blend that sumbish for longer than you’d think. Like, 5-10 min or until it’s a creamy texture, depending on your blender/processor. Pour it over some cooked pasta, or steamed veggies, or dip unsalted blue corn chips, or just drank it out of the blender like I do.