Talent, excitement, chemistry, laughter, and style – this is Haim. The LA sisters have butterflies for a reason; Danielle, Este and Alana Haim have waited years to set their R&B, pop radio and classic rock inspired songs free. Electric talent, fiery resolve and sparkling character have helped these three Valley girls battle setbacks, insecurity, bitchiness and doubt to ride a surge of acclaim and sign to a major label. “It’s so exciting it makes me want to vomit, we’ve spent years trying so hard to do this together. Actually, like, God dudes I hate you now…I’m kidding!” guitarist and singer Alana (aka Babyhaim) says, pointing at her sisters.
A journey that passed by Destiny’s Child and The Spice Girls via Harry Styles and a series of salacious club shows, started with Rockinhaim, the Haim family covers band. Mr and Mrs Haim hoped it would channel and develop the sisters’ bubbling, inexorable rush of creativity, attitude and synchronicity. It succeeded. But their parents can’t have envisaged what would eventually happen.
Haim’s addictive, percussive songs and blistering live shows (a flirtatious mass of flailing hair and drumsticks) have spent 2012 pursued by a wave of industry attention. Their Spring 2012 debut release, the ‘Forever’ EP, appearances at Texas’ SXSW and Brighton’s The Great Escape intensified the excitement and now, with their sound still blossoming, the James Ford-produced tracks ‘Send Me Down’ and ‘Don’t Save Me’ deliver their most ambitious statement yet. This double-A side struts confidently, its gigantic choruses and classic pop melodies blow like kisses; coquettish confidence at odds with the strains and stresses of Haim’s journey to this point.
“We’ve definitely had our failures,” Alana says. “We started this band five years ago and it took us so long to record anything we liked,” adds lead singer and guitarist Danielle, “We were so beat up by all those years, then we did ‘Forever’ and we were able to listen to it alone and be proud. It was a massive moment of realisation.”
Their new single provides another. Expansive and audacious, it manipulates Haim’s clean harmonies, R&B beats, luscious melodies and frantic drums into a dizzying pair of pop songs. It also marks their most lyrically explicit recording yet.. “‘Send Me Down’ is about seeing someone again and having an immediate attraction; it’s about female empowerment in a relationship” Says Este. Carried by a foreboding electronic throb, fidgety drums and rallying harmony, Danielle’s husky refrain adheres itself to your brain immediately and indelibly. ‘Don’t Save Me’ is more innocent in its romantic approach. The line “I can’t go on if your love isn’t strong,” resounds over a sweeping pop structure that started as a drum loop that Haim first remembered by tapping it out on a tabletop.
Taking place in LA and London, recording sessions for the single were different too. For the first time, almost as soon as they were written, Haim recorded brand new songs that they’d never played before. “Usually we’d have demos so we’d know exactly what we wanted to do, this time we were trying new things, it was scary and we were so nervous about working with James in Sunset Sound because it was our first time in a studio like that,” remembers Alana.
Haim are readying their debut long player too. “It’s written and we have demos,” Danielle says, “we’re trying to figure out the sonic landscape of the record. It’s about anything and everything because we’ve had our whole lives to write about.” Alana references a song they’ve been sitting on for a long time. “We’ve had ‘The Wire’ since the beginning. We keep it close to our hearts; it’s like our crown jewel. Finding a good recording of it is like our life mission.” Danielle calls it the “first song that made us realise we were songwriters,” but Haim have always found it difficult to be happy with their recordings. “If I find myself wanting to show someone a song it’s a good sign. We want to be proud if somebody plays our song and says ‘this is Haim’ but usually I can’t even listen to us myself, let alone show other people,” explains Danielle. “But if it was easy it wouldn’t be a job,” Alana counters. “We’re newbies with recording, it’s exciting but we have so much to learn. It makes me want to vomit and cry and maybe slit my wrists when I think our debut record will be out soon, because we haven’t recorded it yet! When we have I’m going straight to Barbados to hit up Rihanna!” “The second it comes out we’re gonna get so smashed!” says Danielle while her sisters giggle. “We’ll be the happiest we’ve ever been, and I don’t drink as I’m diabetic, but for one night only, you have to be there!” warns Este.
This combination of serious work ethic and goofy, self-deprecating humour has been consistent since Haim had the conversation that conceived their band. Having played in Rockinhaim for more than a decade, learning chords from tapes, covering Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles, listening to “oldies music or Spanish radio” and “honing our love for the Iglesias family” (they can launch into their favourite jingles without thought), Haim decided to break away from their parents. Danielle had finished high school, Este was a “weird loser who stayed in LA to go to college” and Alana was “still a baby” when Haim started.
“We all assumed we’d start a band, it was already in our brains, but it was like, can we actually do this? Is it dorky? How do we figure out how to actually write our first song?” Alana says. That song was ‘Figure It Out’, a raunchy, slow-burning blues track. Alana remembers, “It wasn’t a good song at all, but we thought it was next level shit, like wow, if we write five more like this we can play a show. The world is gonna love this shit!”
Haim’s first show was a pay-to-play on 07/07/07 (“we thought that was poetic”). It was packed with their friends who would soon depart California for college, leaving Haim with just two fans at their next show. Years of writing, recording and scrambling around for gigs followed. As the Echo Park scene took off around them and kids flocked to punk clubs like The Smell every weekend, Haim felt left behind and isolated. Danielle toured as a guitarist for both Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas in between writing and playing with Haim. “Making friends with other LA bands was slow and steady,” Este says, letting Alana continue. “We’re a group of Jewish Valley girls, we were different, and we were the outsiders. I was too young, but Este and Danielle would go to all these epic parties around LA and they had the balls to jam with dudes. A girl playing an instrument was a big thing.”
But Haim weren’t hustling, they remained certain they’d be spotted, and a fairytale, movie-like chance meeting would see them sign to a major. They rarely sent recordings or demos out before their manager (who approached them after a show) encouraged them to work with Swedish producer Ludwig Göransson. Still despondent, Haim sent Göransson ‘Forever’ and as the ideas flew between them, what eventually came out of the collaboration changed their lives forever.
“First of all, Ludwig – awesome name! Second, the hex was lifted! We went into the studio with him and realized we could get a good recording,” Alana says, citing sub bass and Göransson’s hip hop style as huge positives. Their friends were always encouraging and supportive, but for Haim, it was the best thing to happen to them so far - Este was so happy she leaked the release a day early on Facebook.
“We were giving it away free, but we all planned to post it at the same time, and she did it a day early, me and Danielle called each other and we were both like, ‘Este!’” Alana says. “We just knew it was her straight away, we always seem to know what each other will do,” Danielle adds. Haim’s sisterly synchronicity fills everything they do, especially their already-infamous live shows, with knowing excitement and sentiment. They may be different and alternate between the role of “the matriarch” – Este is “off the wall crazy,” Danielle is “always seen as the serious one” and Alana the “babbling baby” – but Haim’s bond is unbreakable. “I’ll always be the baby, if our parents have another kid I’ll have to hide that brat away, like Leonardo Di Caprio in The Man In The Iron Mask!” Alana smiles “I saw that movie when I was underage!” Este adds. “Seriously, we never have to worry when we’re together, onstage or anywhere else, we trust each other so much and there’s nothing any of us could say that would make someone say ‘That’s it, I quit!’”
Their unique dynamic has strengthened as Haim have found their creative footing. Ever since their parents encouraged their attention-seeking, loud, eager daughters to perform in school plays, Haim have done everything together, from nail art and sneaking into festivals to writing and playing live.
And now, with their first headline tour, a new single, arena support slots with Florence + The Machine and, when it’s ready, a debut album to come, Haim will be spending a lot longer in each other’s company. “If I start thinking about it all my head might explode, but we’re ready for it,” says Danielle. “We don’t get nervous, not really, and you have to understand our parents made us realize how important art was from birth, seriously! We just have fun,” Alana continues.
“Yeah, my parents asked me if I was on drugs after one show, just because of my bass face. Actually I can kinda see why they thought that!” Este laughs.
But more than anything, Haim are excited to make music that is finally making both them and their audience flush with happiness. As with the emergence of a list of artists including The Strokes, Kings Of Leon, The Killers (and Tom Petty, Danielle points out), their fans in Britain outnumber those in the US. It’s a position they’re happy to be in. Haim have wanted to write sparkling radio-ready pop songs to inspire lyrics-in-school-books and pashing at parties since the start. Now, they’re sure that they can. Their excitable mess of quickly-besotted young fans proves that.
Everything about Haim is a labour of love. Danielle, Este and Alana won’t do anything if they don’t feel totally comfortable with presenting it, Valley girl tics, snorting laughter and all, and saying the one thing they’ve always wanted to – “This is Haim”.
Haim release their new EP ‘Don’t Save Me’ through National Anthem/Polydor Records on the 10th December 2012. Their as yet untitled debut album is due in Spring 2012.