After sisters Este, 31, Danielle, 28, and Alana Haim, 25, released “Right Now,” the first track from their long-awaited sophomore album, Something to Tell You (out Friday), New York magazine asked a question: “Is it corny to like Haim?” (Said my best friend when she was sent the link, “I always worry about this.”) We rarely hear this about female soloists, but when you get an all-female band together, their cool factor is suddenly questionable. (Never mind that Haim writes and coproduces its own music and has a Grammy nod.)
Thankfully, Haim itself has zero interest in chasing cool. “We make the music that we make, write the music that we write, play our instruments how we play them,” Alana tells me. “If anyone even tried to change us, we would be like, ‘F-ck you, no.’” Este, who often fields criticism for her “bass face,” is done internalizing the feedback. “When I was conscious about the way I looked, my playing suffered,” she says. “Guys [make faces] all the time. And people are like, ‘Oh, he’s really feeling the music.’ But the second a woman does, it just feels like, ‘She’s not pretty-looking, so I don’t like it.’ ”
She’s got a point: Family band Kings of Leon makes music that’s both endlessly listenable and undeniably emotional, but we don’t worry about whether liking “Sex on Fire” makes us corny. We just know how it makes us feel. Let’s give Haim the same courtesy, shall we?
What I love about the new songs is that they don’t make you work to love them—they are first-listen loves.
Alana Haim: Thank you so much.
Este Haim: We would be lying if we said that as an artist you [don’t go] through times when you’re like, “Can I still write a good song?” I think as an artist, as a songwriter—and even as a musician—especially being in the studio, I’ll think, “Can I even call myself a bass player? Why am I not getting this part? Why am I not getting it right? Why does it not sound the way that it sounds in my head?” And I think that that’s normal. I think always, kind of, chasing this thing is what keeps being an artist interesting.
I’ve read that you guys have said the idea of a “girl band” is stupid, and I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s super reductive and unnecessary. Has there been resistance to your being so vocal about what matters to you?
AH: I mean, I really make sure that I never look at any of the crazy stuff online, because it just stifles everything in my brain. Este, Danielle, and I are a unit, and we’re always together. We started this band in 2007. We put out our first record in, what, 2012? Right, Este?
EH: 2013. And the thing is—we really started from the bottom. I feel like we stuck to our guns, and there are so many times you can take a shortcut in life. There are so many times you’re offered something only to have to change yourself. If you don’t have sisters, you need a really good group of people around you. People who keep you grounded, but also are your cheerleaders who say, “Stay true to yourself and don’t lose the vision you have in your brain.”
There is clearly a power in three, but your mom must have something to do with all of this self-confidence. What’s Mama Haim like?
EH: Growing up, our mom worked—both of our parents worked. They definitely instilled a work ethic in us, but they also had this joie de vivre at the same time. They were like, “Life is too goddamn short. You need to also have fun. You need to enjoy yourself, and do what you love.” They were in a band with us, so we grew up thinking every family had a family band. It was like, “When does your family rehearse? Saturday or Sunday?” That’s what our mentality was.
AH: Our parents definitely were like, “You need to work your ass off.” When I got out of high school and I was like, “I want be in HAIM.” My parents were like, “That’s awesome, but you’re also getting a job.”