Twisting together sounds of 70’s classic rock, the synthetics of 80’s pop, the dynamics of the digital R&B of the 90’s, along with timeless lyrics of love and heartbreak, Haim is just about covering it all. This trio from southern California is combining their favorite aspects of various genres to create upbeat songs and they’re doing it together.
Sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim were born in Los Angeles, California to a musical family. Their father plays drums, their mother plays guitar, and at home, the sisters grew up listening to classic rock records by artists like Fleetwood Mac, Heart, and Hall & Oates. Noticing their affinity for music, their parents got them started playing instruments at an early age. Danielle showed an aptitude for the guitar while Este began playing bass. With their parents, the family formed a band and played Beatles and Van Morrison covers at charity and community events in their area.
In 2007, after years of playing with their parents, the sisters decided to definitively form their own group as a trio. However, it took five years for them to release any legitimate recorded material. What were they doing in the meantime? All three sisters were busy perfecting their talents. Este graduated from UCLA with a degree in Ethnomusicology. Danielle was busy touring with high-profile acts like Jenny Lewis, Julian Casablancas, and Cee-Lo Green. It was this experience touring that influenced Alana’s decision to drop out of school and for all three to take Haim more seriously and record together.
When Haim released their Forever EP in 2012, they finally began to garner professional attention. In the five previous years, Haim had been touring and going unnoticed. Danielle recalls playing shows where they “were at the bottom of the bill at 50 capacity venues and no one would show up”. That all changed in what seemed like overnight success. The EP got Haim the recognition they wanted, specifically an invitation to play at the South by Southwest music festival. Even though they personally describe their performance as a “disaster”, it shot them further towards success. In the same year, Haim was now opening for Mumford & Sons and Florence and The Machine. The sisters signed a deal with a major record label and spent a year recording their debut album Days are Gone.
Right here, it’s important to recognize the perfectionist attitude that all three sisters share. When listening to the album, it’s easy to notice a meticulous attention to detail and the band is definitely aware of that. “We wanted it to be exactly the way we wanted it, and to sound exactly the way we wanted it to sound,” Este says, “We were really careful about that”. Each song has the ability to stand on its own. They come with a richness that is a product of layered, slick harmonies from expert guitar work and synthesizers. In “If I Could Change Your Mind”, the staccato riffs are complemented perfectly by rapid drumming and a foundation of phrases from the Alana’s keyboards. It’s easy to draw similarities to artists Madonna and Blondie. Danielle’s vocals strike you with an air of power and confidence as she channels her inner Stevie Nicks. The sisters effortlessly combine characteristics of the rock & roll they grew up listening to and pop textures of their generation. In “Running If You Call My Name”, the band, between the twinkling piano and the chilling, poetic lyrics, sounds like a female Bruce Springsteen. On Days are Gone, Haim creates something totally original. They have an extremely organic sound and build ambiances that seem to surround you as you listen. There’s so much to uncover in their music. You could listen to the same song a hundred times, each time focusing on a different instrument or melody, and discover something new. Days are Gone is a complete album that plays through excellently from beginning to end. Since its release Haim has been touring nonstop around the world at festivals and concert venues. If they come to your area, you should definitely go see them. More recently, they once again showed their love of all sorts of music and released a remix of “My Song 5” with A$AP Ferg over the summer.
Haim is not your average female act. While they idolize Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé, don’t be fooled. These girls are proficient, talented musicians who know what they’re doing with an instrument in their hands. On stage, they do away with their songs’ complexities and turn into real rock & rollers. Check out some videos of music festivals to admire their professional stage presence, as well as Este’s signature bass-face. These girls are great songwriters and transcend all categories of music to just be themselves. Haim is a dynamic act that is not held down by the constraints of any genres. Just don’t say they’re girl band.
By David Cooper