There is a certain recognizable sound that is quintessentially Californian: a brightness in the guitar, an upbeat tempo, a cheerful melody, and a simplicity that immediately renders images of the laid-back life of sun and surf. HAIM does not sound like this. While the California-based band plays to a less stereotypical tune, they still manage to capture the essence of the easy going and fun-loving lifestyle of the state they call home. After getting to know Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim, the three sisters who make up the band, it is clear that their quirky music is a direct extension of their collective personality.
HAIM (rhymes with “rhyme”) is a real family affair. The sisters formed the group after years of performing in a band with their parents while growing up. Having played as a trio for four years now, the sisters still root themselves at home and continue to make music in their parents’ living room. All have pursued their own projects and played with other musicians, “but it was never really as fun,” the band said. More than just sisters having a good time, they said they are “all just really big fans of each other as musicians.” The enjoyment they get from one another is palpable and they have a goofy familiarity that only sisters can have.
The security of sisterhood extends itself into the music they make and their presence on stage. “Being sisters just makes it easier to not feel self-conscious when throwing out an idea,” they said. “The only thing that gets difficult is deciding where we’re going to eat lunch after rehearsal.” A complex mix of sounds with nods to genres as diverse as folk, nineties R&B, and traditional Brazilian and Bulgarian music creates their unique and thoroughly modern soundscapes. The sisters hold tight to their song-writing reins but have found that while “writing and recording our own material was very freeing… it also added a lot of pressure.” They said, “We know how we want things to sound, but getting to that place in the track was difficult sometimes.” Getting by with a little help from their friends, they created percussion-heavy beats, strong bass lines, cheerful guitars, and cooing harmonies that make it hard to sit still – and that’s just the way they intended it. Take a look at HAIM’s debut music video for Forever and you’ll see these ladies bustin’ some pretty impressive moves themselves.
While the sisters are well aware of girl group stigmas, they don’t let the challenge posed by preconceived ideas faze them, instead they’re instilled with youthful confidence: “We knew once people saw us live we’d shut up the haters.” They certainly did when the trio made a splash at this year’s SXSW, and have since been propelling forward. The sisters together and separately have played with artists ranging from Levon Helm, Julian Casablancas, and Jenny Lewis to Cee Lo Green. “Playing with legends like Levon and Julian was the most inspiring experience,” said Este. “Seeing Julian’s work ethic really lit a fire under our asses. We try to bring that same fire he has to all of our shows.”
The fun-loving and feminine mix of old and new that their audience love manifests itself in the band’s image too. The sisters wore all Jesse Kamm clothes exclusively for their shoot with The Lab – the band knows the designer, who also styled them, having bonded previously over iced teas, discussing music and “how sick Amelia Earhart’s style was.” Whether it is their look or their music, the sisters said, “Perfecting the blend is something that we’re always working on.” With a full-length record in the works to follow their much-loved EP, HAIM’s appreciation for the past, coupled with a staggeringly fresh sound, is ushering in a more modern idea of the California lifestyle: sun and fun gone global, with a hint of the digital-age, and a sweet smack of girl power.