Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
“HAIM’s the fuckin’ best band in the world.” That’s what Marcus Mumford told the sellout crowd at Barclays Center on February 12, talking about the band that’s been opening for Mumford & Sons. Pretty high praise, especially coming from a guy who just a few days earlier won a Grammy for Album of the Year. A trio of sisters from California (plus a touring drummer), HAIM make music that’s hard to define but seems destined for summertime listening. Underneath circular melodies and smooth harmonies, there’s a flurry of crackling percussion, guitar licks and bass grooves; it’s pop music with calloused hands.
The band is currently recording their debut album, and we chatted with the eldest sister, bassist Este Haim, about growing up in a family band, crafting the perfect harmony and being tight with Ke$ha. Read on to get to know HAIM.
NAMES: Danielle Haim, Este Haim & Alana Haim (she’s the youngest)
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles
SOUNDS LIKE: Driving in the car on the way to school in the early ’90s. Or, to be more concrete: Danielle’s lead vocals bring to mind Fiona Apple, the full package adds a little Heart, with some R&B smoothness balancing the occasional New Wave jitters. Even the band has trouble articulating their unique blend, but Este says, “We don’t go into the process being like, ‘We want to sound like X.’ The elements that we enjoy go into songs. When we hear something we like, we keep it.”
INFLUENCES: “We had healthy doses of oldies, classic rock, ’50s, Motown,” Este said. “My mom was a disco champ dancer, so she loved Donna Summer. Maybe the only form of rebellion musically was that we really loved West Coast hip-hop. Our parents didn’t really understand it, other than the samples. They’d hear the sample and be like, ‘I love this song,’ then realize it wasn’t the actual song.”
Of course, the ’90s were the golden age of Top 40 radio, so that shaped the gals as well. “My friends and I would listen to KIIS FM, Top 40 stations, definitely TLC. I had a phase where all I listened to was La Bouche.”
SISTER ACT: “I get to write and record and travel with two of my bizzles! We’ve been in bands with other people and they never feel as fun as when we play together. The disadvantages are, we go on tour and pretty much share the same wardrobe. We don’t bring a lot of stuff and have to share, so that’s kind of a bummer.”
ROCKINHAIM > MALL: Teenagers are embarrassed by their parents, this is a given. But it’s hard to avoid Mom and Dad when you’re in a band with them, and the band has your last name in it. “Well of course, what 13-year-old is like, ‘Sorry guys, can’t go the mall, gotta hang with the parentals for a Rockinhaim set.’ It wasn’t until I was in high school when I realized, that’s fuckin’ rad!”
ON BALLING: Their hoops-centric “Don’t Save Me” video is no cheeky act. “Oh, we ball out of control,” Este proclaimed. “We have a basketball court in our backyard. There was one B-ball hoop, and my dad put in another one, so we technically have a weird full court. It’s small, but it’s there.”
THE GREATEST SONGWRITING ANALOGY: “If you could imagine the song is an orb in the middle of our circle, we just kind of want to make the orb grow. So we just throw things at it, almost like we’re watering it with every idea we throw at it.”
PERFECT HARMONY: “Those harmonies are just us fucking around, it’s usually not planned,” Este told us. “Growing up, we’d sing in the car with our dad, and he claims to have a better falsetto than the Bee Gees — and their harmonies are pretty insane. There’s three Bee Gees, there’s three of us, and going to school in the car we’d just harmonize. And we were in choir and stuff, so we had an understanding of harmonies at an early age.”
DREAM COLLABORATION: “In a perfect world, I’d work with Prince. I think he’s the only person I would really get starstruck around. Let’s throw it out there on your site. Just to touch the hem of his garment…”
SEEING K-DOLLA SIGNS: “It’s been the most amazing year for us,” Este said. “Even before that, touring with Julian Casablancas, opening for Ke$ha. She’s one of our oldest friends, when she moved to L.A. we became friends. She asked us randomly to open for her one day. So, little crazy things like that, they’ve just been building gradually over six years.”
WHAT’S NEXT: HAIM will release their debut LP later this year. “We’ve recorded everything and demoed everything out, now it’s time to buckle down and actually do the real thing, finish the record. Then, I just want to tour for the rest of the year.”
As for what’s next, like, right this second? “I have to catch up on the latest episode of Dance Moms.”