This post was originally published on Nov. 5, 2013.
Este, Danielle and Alana Haim are a tangle of long hair, long limbs and family mannerisms. They drop and pick up each other’s sentences with ease, talking over each other in the crowded CBC Vancouver studio booth as if they were at home around the kitchen table. They’re funny, friendly and full of energy even though they’ve been on the road for most of 2013, first in anticipation and then in support of their debut album, Days Are Gone. The sisters will close out their phenomenal year with another milestone: they play Saturday Night Live on Nov. 23.
But with all that, there are still a ton of people who can't even properly pronounce their name asking, “What’s Hame?” For shame.
After our interview (minus drummer Dash Hutton, who usually sits out press stuff), and watching them kick ass at their sold-out show that night at the Commodore Ballroom, one thing is clear: the sisters Haim are going to change the world. But first everybody needs to know about them. We can help. From Bukowski to Grimes and L.A. to Nardwuar, CBC Music presents the ABCs of HAIM.
The youngest Haim (her name is pronounced Al-ah-na) plays guitar, keyboards and percussion and dropped out of college to be in the band full time. She just turned 21 and counts Portugal. The Man, Childish Gambino and Passion Pit among her band "bros."
Este: We love him.
Danielle: It’s been awesome reading Bukowski on the road. It’s kinda sad because it makes me miss L.A., it brings you back there in a way.
Este: For us it’s Bukowski.... Even the darkest shit, you still can kind of feel that at his heart of hearts, he still cares and actually has feelings. And he does it really well, too. He does it in a way that’s not cheesy at all. Women, I think collectively, is our favourite book.
Este got her bass after responding to a Craigslist ad. The seller turned out to be Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley, whom Danielle knew from her days of playing with Jenny Lewis.
The middle Haim sister is the lead guitarist and vocalist, and has played with Jenny Lewis, Julian Casablancas and ditched a stint as Cee-Lo Green’s backup singer to focus on Haim.
The eldest Haim, renowned for her "bass face," reportedly completed her five-year degree in ethnomusicology at UCLA in just two years and also got her real estate licence when she turned 18, just in case.
“When Danielle turned 16 and Este was 18, they started going to shows together and then when Danielle was 18 and I was 16, Danielle started taking me to shows,” Alana says. “It was in L.A. and Este and Danielle got me my first fake ID and would take me to bars and we’d all just hang out and we got to experience this amazing L.A. music scene together. We met so many new people and this huge group of people that loved the same group of people as we did. It just made it easy for us to be together all the time because we just had so much fun.”
“We really admire [Grimes] because everything she does is basically directly from her music,” Danielle says. “She produces it all herself and does a lot of it herself, which for us is really inspiring and what we strive to do, too. We got questions about being a girl in the business a lot in the beginning and in my mind, I was like, ‘Yeah, no, we don’t really experience [misogyny], but it’s weird, the more we do go through everyday life doing promo and shit and get our vision out there, you do run into [it].”
It’s their last name and it’s also the Hebrew word for "life," and it’s kind of pronounced Hi-im, sort of like time, but with a more exaggerated separation between the vowels.
“There really isn’t indie anymore,” Alana told Las Vegas Weekly. “Indie just means you’re doing it yourself, and we did that — we did it for a really long time. I feel like now it’s such a great time for people who want to be in music, because you can do things yourself. You don’t need other people. When we signed to a label, it was kind of just because it was time and this label that we chose was like, ‘We f--king love you and we don’t want you to change.’ It’s not like we signed and they said, ‘Just kidding, now you have to turn into this like, uber pop girl band.’ It’s not that at all.”
“Joni Mitchell is one of our collective favourites. My mom — I grew up listening to her, and I read so many biographies on her, so we love Joni,” Danielle says.
He’s the official favourite rapper of Haim.
“Downtown L.A. is really f--king rad,” Este says.
“Girls with curls, trouble,” Este jokes. “Girls with curls are just maneaters. You just get all the hot dudes.”
“We love Nardwuar!” Alana says of her “bucket list” interview with the famed Vancouver interviewer.
“Isn’t every new artist kind of considered an overnight success?” Este asks with a laugh. “Isn’t, like, any artist that comes out with a single and then it’s successful, ‘Oh yeah, it’s an overnight sensation!’ I don’t know how much we really buy into that whole thing. We’ve been playing music together since we were kids. Maybe if the interwebs were bigger back when we were younger, then maybe.”
Price is Right
“I would definitely want to be on the Price is Right, but only if it’s a Plinko episode,” Alana says. “The dude or the girl that gets Plinko, it’s like you just won the jackpot. You always get money. It’s just completely up to chance and you can’t get mad at yourself if you don’t win anything. It’s like completely not up to you. Or, Let’s Make a Deal, because my parents were on Let’s Make a Deal. So that was good.”
Quarter and fork conundrum
“We were watching In it to Win It and it was just ridiculous,” Alana says. “You had to roll a quarter and it had to get in to one of the prongs of the fork. Might as well just pack it up and go home!”
“Put a fork in me, I’m done,” Danielle deadpans.
“Zing!” Alana laughs.
“We’ve been playing music since we were babies,” Alana says. “We had a band with our parents called Rockinhaim and we’d always played music together, so it wasn’t a big thing taking our parents out of the equation. Not that they got kicked out or anything!”
“We had a sit-down talk with them,” Este jokes.
“But they weren’t songwriters and we wanted to write songs together and kind of form a band,” Alana says. “You learn how to work with your family when you’re kind of thrust into this situation at such a young age. We only played for charity and street fairs, but it was a thing, it was a family activity.”
“I was in Santa Barbara and someone threw a full bottle of water on me while I was onstage performing and the reason why they did it was because they said they were so wet right now and I should be wet also,” Alana says, still incredulous. “There are so many weird, underlying sexual things that women go through that people think it’s OK to say these really disgusting things —”
“And people think it’s OK because like, ‘Oh, you’re going out onstage, blah, blah, blah,’” Este interjects.
“Yeah, like you’re asking for it,” Alana says. “You’re not asking for it, you’re going out there and putting yourself out there and for someone to think that it’s OK to say weird things to you and not even think about it. It really got under my skin and just reminded me so much of what Lauren was saying. She gets so many derogatory things said to her and she was like, ‘What am I supposed to do? Not look at it, not think about it?’ It’s really not OK. Some people just act really awfully towards women, and really, everyone, putting yourself out there, going up onstage, you should feel respected. I respect the audience. I don’t throw things at them, I don’t spit on them. For someone to do that to me and to say something weirdly sexual and gross. It was awful to hear and opened my eyes to this weird underlying thing.”
Este told The Guardian how she was persuaded to switch from guitar to bass at a young age after her father showed her a video of Tina Weymouth playing bass in Talking Heads.
According to an interview in The Fader, Moti Haim, their father, was brought to America from Israel after he was recruited to play soccer and immigrated to Ohio in 1980.
Este and Danielle played in this teenage girl group that was inspired by the likes of Pat Benetar and Blondie and scored a modest hit with a song on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants soundtrack. Plus, there's this awesome video below.
“That was one of the first songs we wrote in 2008 that made us think maybe we could do this,” Este says.
British radio DJ Mary Anne Hobbs gave Haim their big break when she put them into rotation on XFM and gave them their first interview.
Kanye West’s album often serves as Haim’s pre-show pump-up music.
Z (as in Jay Z)
Haim is signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Danielle told Complex Music, “"Our manager, Jon Lieberberg, got brought into the company, so all of the people that he managed came under the umbrella. We met Jay Z and he was really excited to have us on the label, which is so bizarre to us because we’re huge Jay Z fans. When we met him for the first time, he was so nice and humble. I think we were one of the first bands to be on the roster and they were excited to have that kind of diversity on the management side of things. They’ve been so awesome to us."
Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner
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