A trio of sisters has the international music scene buzzing, with industry critics, and music junkies alike, anxiously anticipating the release of Los Angeles’ Haim‘s debut full-length album.
After touring with Mumford & Sons last year, it’s now sisters Danielle’s (vocals, lead guitar), Este’s (vocals, bass) and youngest Alana Haim’s (vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion) turn to step into the spotlight as the headliner of a European tour beginning late April in support of the band’s upcoming debut, due out this summer.
Already an audience draw in the UK, Haim won the coveted number one spot on BBC’s Sound of 2013 polls — a stepping stone to commercial success should 2012 runner-up Frank Ocean’s Grammy this year be of any indication, or, of course, the mega stardom of the poll’s 2008 winner, Adele.
Compared by some music critics to folk goddess Stevie Nicks, while Haim’s emotionally strung singer-songwriter lyrics are characterized by the contemplative heartache synonymous with folk songs, as Danielle Haim of the band comments in our interview, “ I don’t hear folk…maybe it’s because we have long hair.”
Undeniably pop in sound, Haim pairs upbeat tempos with breathy harmonies and smart, catchy hooks to create songs like last year’s single “Forever,” a track that could easily replace OMD’s “If You Leave” as the perfect bitter-sweet pop song in the final scene of Pretty in Pink, with the dreamy tremble of Danielle Haim’s vocals setting the mood.
Carving out a niche of their own in sound and style, the band’s dance routine in the music video for the aforementioned “Forever” (think an indie version of the skills Mariah Carey’s shows off in “Heartbreaker”) plays out as something of a declaration of the band’s intention to redefine the pop-rock genre. Add in a James Brown-esque “ha” here and there, layered with a twinge of Michael Jackson-y vibrato, and we’re sold.
Eager to learn more about the band’s upcoming debut record, I caught up with Danielle from Haim to talk about the band’s sound and the phenomenon of garnering success before a full-length album release.
So I understand you’re about to head out on an oversees tour, are you looking forward to hopping across the pond?
I am excited…but we have to finish our record first! But I am excited, we have the most fun playing live. We kinda can’t wait to get out of the studio and go on tour.
You have a big following already in the UK, I see the band’s topped BBC’s Sound Of 2013 list. Where did the big fan base stem from?
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome… I don’t really know how it happened, but we basically played the SXSW of Europ,e which is called “The Great Escape” in Brighton in London, and ever since then, it kinda took off. We’re playing on the radio over there and we played on BBC Radio 1.
It’s pretty incredible to have that kind of success over there already as an American band.
There’s a real thirst for new music over there I think. I don’t really know how it happened …but a big part of our fan base is in the UK.
And you’re originally from L.A., where some incredible indie bands have come out of recently. How would you describe the scene over there, is it a close knit community?
I think there’s not too many venues in L.A., so it’ll always be a tight community of musicians, and we’ve been the baby opening band for like 5 years there. Then our EP came out, and we got to play at the Troubadour, where we always want to play and we’ve always open for friends, but a couple months ago, we headlined it.
Must have been exciting! Do you feel like there’s anything distinctly L.A. about your sound?
I mean I don’t hear it, but people tell us we sound very sunny…I don’t know exactly what that means (laughing), but probably.
Critics and writers have also describe your sound as girly folk rock, would you say you fit into that category?
Yeah…I have trouble with the folk thing. We never really started off as Haim, we had a thing with our parents, then we started playing shows in 2007, and we wanted to be a rock band, but with pop melodies. Folk has always been a thing…but we never wanted to be folk…not that folk is only exclusive to acoustic guitar, but we like to play are electrical instruments.
So no folk then?
I don’t know…yeah, I don’t know why we would sound folk, but that’s cool. We are definitely more of a rock band…or rock pop or something.
I definitely hear the pop in there. Do you think pop is changing, evolving into something other than a dirty word in music?
It is. I mean…I think so. I have always been a fan of top 40 radio (laughing), that’s what I grew up on, that is what I listen to now — all the time. I think the genre of pop rock might have a really weird connotation…when I hear pop rock, I think of Avril Lavigne.
I think you’re right, but that’s not what the genre is about, at least not now.
Pop rock doesn’t have the freshest meaning I feel like, but I think I’ve always considered my favorite music, even from the ’70s like Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac…I always thought they were considered pop, and the Beatles too.
It’s a tricky genre to pin an exact description to.
A lot of people have a debate about what is “pop.” I dont think it’s that hard: it’s anything that is catchy and has a good melody. I’m not too snobby about it. I think anything that is good is pop. I could say Neil Young is pop…a lot of Neil Young songs are pop…not a lot of people would agree with me though.
Your sound has this really fun element to it, but the lyrics can be really heavy at the same time. Is that a conscious decision? It reminds me a bit of ’80s electronic bands like New Order.
I think we were all in really gnarly relationships…we aren’t anymore, thank god, but when we were writing the last couple of years, we were all in shitty relationships, and I think we all drew from that because it was the most present emotion…it was running through us. But we all love pop, and we all love up tempo, so I think it was what was coming out of us at the time. You know we’re definitely conscious that most of our songs are about scorned love (laughing).
Is that the theme of the debut album?
Not all of it, some of the newer songs are about having to deal with different pressures that have arisen in the past year. It’s kind of boring to hear because I hear everybody talk about their debut record like this, but you have your whole life to write your first record. So, it’s kind of like stories from the last 6 years, you know? It’s a lot of different shit, but I’d say most of it…or a lot of it is about love. You know we’re girls…I dont know…it sounds cheesy.
Not the way you record it. There’s a lot of buzz already around the record, are you paying any attention to that or just focusing on the debut and the tour?
Yeah definitely. I think most days we kind of forget about it. We basically havent accomplished anything at all. We’re still really a baby band, and we can’t wait to just get the record out, so we can just tour and try and gain fans that way. Just opening up for our friends’ bands, and just kind of touring and playing for people. That’s one thing we learned from Mumford & Sons, they’re friends of ours…new friends of ours, but from what I understand, they kind of just toured the shit out of their first record.
Yeah, you mentioned before you like playing live.
We have the most fun live, so we are just ready to get out there, and not worry too much about the record because we have been driving ourself pretty crazy in the studio the past couple months. I can’t wait to get it out and just tour for the next year or whatever.Published March 29, 2013