Better Off With HAIM: An Inside Look At Indie's Best New Trio
By Peter Zimmerman
October 30, 2012
Rarely does a new band with only an EP to their name make such considerable waves in the indie rock world-- recently it's been groups like Alabama Shakes, Lana Del Rey, Washed Out and Azealia Banks who turn on critics and fans alone and leave them wanting much more than the few songs available online and in print. But, one of the most recent additions to this esteemed group is San Fernando Valley-based quartet HAIM, comprised of "three sisters and a mister": sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, and Dash Hutton on drums.
Earlier this year, HAIM offered the Forever EP free online, and it immediately made a considerable impression on the blogosphere. Title track (and lead single) "Forever" is a delightful and undeniably catchy tight pop song that recalls the harmonies of Wilson Phillips, the moxie of Debbie Harry and the R&B sultriness of Aaliyah. But, to be honest, HAIM is the melodic and percussion-focused girl group that has been sorely lacking in the indie-rock musical landscape for some time now. They're not dance-pop centered, like so many following Lady Gaga's lead, they're not all-out grunge and they're not shoegaze-chic. Instead, the Haim sisters write some of the most infectious pop that is both intelligent, thoughtful, resonant and fun-- all at once.
Glide Magazine recently spoke with HAIM about their Forever EP, their beginnings as a family band, plans for a 2013 full-length release, what 90s influences play out in their music and lives around Southern California, and which Fleetwood Mac album they'd most like to cover.
The three of you have been playing music as a unit since you were small, playing with your parents around town doing a lot of covers. So, you have a background in knowing each other as musicians as well as family members. What are some of your memories of playing with your parents?
Our best memory of playing with our parents is when we played the Kibbitz Room on Fairfax for the first time. We felt like rock stars. It was a magical feeling. I don't think we've felt anything close to that ever.
Were there points when any of you wanted to stop playing, and we guilted into coming back into it?
We never wanted to stop playing. We participated in other projects and touring, but we always knew we could come back and our band would still be there.
What are your main musical influences, now and when you were young?
We listened to everything our parents listened to. Our mom loved folk and Motown, and our dad liked funk and The Clash. But being from LA we spent a lot of time in the car, so we listened to radio a lot. We were really into 90's girl groups like En Vogue and Destiny's Child, but also everything that was on KIIS FM at the time.
When did you decide that you wanted to start HAIM?
We had never written a song together, and we sat down and did it almost as an experiment. After we wrote our first song, we realized how much fun it was and just kept doing it. After we had written a few songs we decided we wanted to play them live for people. Our first gig was on 07/07/07, which we thought was pretty fitting. After that we decided it was something we wanted to do forever.
What have been the toughest things about getting HAIM off the ground?
Waiting for Alana to graduate High School!
What's your writing process like? Do you all write together? How do you figure out your harmonies? What instruments do you all play?
We all write the songs together. We're all drummers, so the songs usually come from a drum beat we've come up with first. Danielle plays lead guitar, Alana plays rhythm guitar and keyboard, and Este plays Bass.
You're linked with a bunch of the Southern California musical elite, like Jenny Lewis, Ryan Adams, etc. Does it ever feel surreal to you to be rubbing shoulders with musicians like these?
We looked up to Jenny growing up in LA and going to Rilo Kiley shows on the weekends. She is so inspiring to us. Same with Ryan. He has been really sweet to us and is the funnest person to jam with.
So far, you've officially released a 3-song EP. What are your plans moving forward, music-wise? Are you recording a full-length?
It's on its way!
Listen to new track "Don't Save Me":
How many original songs do you have completed at this point? I was listening to your recent Daytrotter session, and you have 3 new songs on there ("Honey & I," "The Wire" and "Let Me Go"). How many more do you have ready?
We've lost count already, but now we just have to get into the studio to record it!
Your cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Hold Me" for the recent tribute album Just Tell Me That You Want Me is amazing. It's like you updated Lindsey Buckingham's 1979 Tusk production and harmonic styling for that cover. What was it like to work on that project? What other Fleetwood Mac songs would you have like(d) to take on, if given the chance?
We love Fleetwood Mac, so getting to work on that compilation was an unbelievable honor. We had a great time working on it, we tracked the whole thing in a day. Our parents used to play that song in the cover band they had before playing with us, so it was one of our favorites growing up. I think if we had the chance, we'd cover anything from "Tango In The Night."
What's been your favorite thing about touring? What's the worst part of touring for you?
We just love performing and going to new places. Our dad says our great grandmother was a gypsy, and that's why we don't like staying in the same place for too long-- our gypsy blood! There is no downside to touring, other than trying to find vegan-friendly food.
How do you all resolve fights (if there are any)? Being a family unit, I would assume there's a fair bit of butting heads.
The only time we ever fight is about clothes. We say we have 1 big closet. So, whoever gets to what they want first gets to wear it. But things never get ugly-- it's a mutual understanding.
Who are some artist/bands that would be an absolute fantasy/dream for you to work with?
Any plans for a full US tour any time soon?
What's one thing about HAIM most people don't know?