It only takes the length of a song to fall for Haim’s music and roughly half that time – whether you’re meeting the sisters face-to-face or seeing them do their thing on stage – before you wish you were their fourth sibling. When I meet Este, Danielle and Alana at a studio in downtown LA at 10am they’re in need of coffee, but get them talking on pretty much any subject – vintage clothes, last night’s Paul Simon show, ‘MasterChef Junior’ – and the trio instantly shift from chill to ebullient.
Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in California, the three sisters formed Haim in 2007 and have since been tirelessly honing their brand of crisp, confessional pop-rock, melding Bangles hooks and ‘Rumours’-era Fleetwood Mac grooves. Meanwhile the unique vocal syncopation of ’90s R&B-indebted harmonies reveal their rhythmic roots (all three of them starting learning the drums before they’d reached double-digits).
Their second album, last summer’s ‘Something to Tell You’, takes listeners on a journey of splintered relationships and emotional U-turns before finding strength and solace in flying solo. It’s a record that strikes a too-true emotional chord, which, along with Haim’s celebratory live shows and inclusive, best-buds dynamic, has boosted the sisters to the top of their game. They’ve toured with Taylor Swift and Rihanna, Bono requested a hang, Stevie Nicks loves them, and they have an ongoing collaboration with director Paul Thomas Anderson – because he’s a Haim super-fan too.
It’s certainly a long way from their teens, playing back-up in their parents’ cover band Rockinhaim. They may be on the list for the Met Gala, but they’re still total goofballs. ‘If you wanna bag a Haim, get your tucchus to the deli and get me a matzo ball soup!’ Este recently announced on stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Next week Haim return to London, a pit-stop on their globe-trotting Sister Sister Sister tour, where they’ll entertain 20,000 fans over two nights at Alexandra Palace.‘These are our biggest headline shows and they sold out in just two days!’ says Danielle, still in disbelief. ‘We’re just three girls from the Valley, man.’
The first time I saw you was at Dingwalls in Camden in 2012 when your parents joined you to perform ‘Mustang Sally’. It was pandemonium.
Danielle ‘We actually signed our record deal that day and it was so surreal because it was the first time we’d heard our lyrics sung back to us. There’s videos of that show on YouTube where I’m on the verge of crying. It felt like we were dreaming. XFM started playing our first EP when we were playing shows to, like, five people in LA. We felt so lucky to be embraced in the UK and London specifically.’ Your videos have some great choreography. Did you make up dance routines when you were kids?
Este ‘I wanted to be Bob Fosse. For. Sure.’
Alana ‘Este was a very critical dance choreographer. There were many baby talent shows at our house that ended with me in tears! I wasn’t good enough. Mainly I think our parents wanted to tire us out. The “Want You Back” dance is 99.9 percent Este.’
What’s been that pinch-yourself-moment since you formed Haim?
E ‘A big one was when we met Nile Rodgers at the Brits. My mom was a disco diehard and we grew up listening to Chic. It’s moments like that – when you meet people that truly inspire you – where you’re like: How did we get here?’
Now you’re playing on these huge stages, how do you look back on your first tour back in 2009, opening for Julian Casablancas?
D ‘I used to be more shy. I learned a lot touring with Julian and Jenny Lewis. Jules puts so much into the performances, he’s so meticulous, but it seems so effortless. It really taught me you need focus on everything.’
A ‘I was a baby on that tour. When I turned 21 it was a weight lifted off everyone’s shoulders because [before that] I wasn’t allowed in the bars. I would have to wait outside, play the show and then leave immediately. We were always confident in our playing, but now it’s a whole other beast. I feel super-confident walking into every studio and venue now. I feel powerful because me and my sisters are a force to be reckoned with. No one can fuck with us! We’re wiser but still young at heart. I still feel like I’m 16, I’m still trying to get people to make out with me.’
Isn’t there a line of guys outside your shows?
A ‘I wish. Also it’s a hard thing to tell someone: my job comes first. I’m a workaholic, which is the best thing ever: you’re constantly trying to create. Days off don’t exist, sorry bro. But I wouldn’t change it for anything, I love what I do. This metaphorical person who doesn’t exist has to accept that!’ Unlike when you were touring ‘Days Are Gone’, you’re writing more on the road these days.
D ‘We’ve pushed ourselves. We try not to wait around for inspiration to hit: you have to sit down and do the work. A big thing I’m trying to stand by is not judging something while writing it.’
Who in Haim gives the best advice?
E ‘Alana. I give awful advice. I’m always like, “Follow your heart!”’
A ‘Este, what should I eat today?’ E ‘Follow your heart! Because we’re so close and so protective, sometimes we have to outsource to our friends for advice, but in order to write songs we find inspiration from each other and our friends’ lives, so we have to talk about everything. Although we have to omit some details, if you catch my drift! [Laughs] Also, on tour they’re literally my nurses, they’re always checking on me [Este has type 1 diabetes]. I have a monitor that tracks my blood sugar 24 hours a day and they have it on their phones, so if I’m not paying attention, I’ll get a text from Alana saying, “Yo dude, check your blood sugar, I’m getting all these notifications, I can’t sleep!”’
Are there things you’ve learned about each other through the process of writing lyrics?
A ‘Oh yeah. There are things that come out of you that you don’t realise you’re dealing with until you read it back. It’s a very cathartic, weird, spiritual experience for us. We’ve all gone through a lot of the same experiences, just at different points in our lives. I talked to my ex the other day and was like, “That lyric is about you.”’
What did he say?
A ‘“Ouch! Sorry.” I was like, “It’s okay! I’ve moved through it.”’ So, you’ve had some onstage wardrobe malfunctions in your time.
E ‘Skirts that snap at the front are a definite no-no. We were in Austin and I had a skirt I wanted to take for a spin and the whole thing opened onstage. Thank God there was a clasp at the waist or I would’ve played the rest of the show in my skivvies – just me in my road-tested, mother-approved granny panties that we all wear.’
All ‘Hanes!’ [Think Fruit of the Loom]
E ‘One time Chris Isaak came backstage to say hi and said something about underwear, and I said, “Yeah, Danielle ran out today and had to get the runner to get her a brand new pack of Hanes.” Danielle literally didn’t talk to me for a day. Chris is the hottest person – so nice, and then I said that. That’s one way to kill the vibe!’
Haim play Alexandra Palace on Jun 15-16.
Photography: Charlotte Rutherford at LMC Worldwide
Styling: Rebecca Grice at Artists at Wilhelmina
Hair: Candice Birns at Nest Artists using Davies and Oribe
Make-up: Muamera Pulic at Opus Beauty using Chanel Palette Essentielle