The Weekly Interview: Haim’s Alana Haim

Breakout pop band Haim includes Haim sisters Alana, Este and Danielle.

You might not be familiar with the name—yet, but this year’s breakout pop band is quickly winning over fans with its infectious, ’80s-tinged tunes. Since Haim released an EP in 2012, the pop-rockers have been difficult to pigeonhole. Sisters Alana, Este and Danielle Haim have been well-versed in music since they were young, and now, behind a major-label record debut, Haim is headlining venues around the U.S., and sitting comfortably at No. 1 on the U.K. charts. Produced by one of mega-pop’s heaviest hitters, Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Usher), it’s little wonder Days Are Gone is sailing smoothly to the top. The youngest of the siblings, Alana (known by her fans as Baby Haim), called up the Weekly on a day off in New Orleans to talk about the Life Is Beautiful gig and the end of indie music as we know it.

How is New Orleans? This is our first day off in, I actually can’t even remember. We’ve been running around the city. I think I bought, like, 30 Mardi Gras masks. I don’t know if they’ll survive the rest of the tour, but I was just like ‘F*ck it. I’m going to get them.’ Hopefully at least one of them survives.

So is the name pronounced Hi-Em, or Hyme? There’s two syllables. A lot of people get confused, because we say it rhymes with ‘time,’ but that’s our way of trying to get people to kind of say it right. Now we’re slowly easing in the two syllables. It’s ‘Hi-Em.’

Days Are Gone went No. 1 yesterday in the U.K. When did you first start feeling that this was going to be something big? We don’t realize those things; we keep each other very sheltered. We’ve always just been happy to play shows. We’ve been playing shows for six years, and only in LA. Two years ago, we were begging people to come to our shows. And because all of our friends didn’t want to pay, we’d basically pay our friends to come to our shows. Now, being No. 1 is a crazy thing. I think that was the first time I’ve been like, Woah, okay, we’re on the right path.

How was it working with Ariel Rechtshaid? Ariel’s the best. We met him at a party randomly. He’s a Valley kid, and that’s where we’re from. He was about to work on the new Vampire Weekend record, so it was kind of this weird foreplay to our record, ’cause we had to wait till he was done. And that record, from start to finish, is a masterpiece. So when we finally got to work with him, it was so awesome to be in the studio with someone that just has weird ideas. Me, Este and Danielle have very similar taste in music and very similar taste in sound and chord progressions. He was kind of there to be like, “Hey, I love what you guys are doing, but what if you put this weird 808?” Or, “Let’s drop the vocals down an octave?” He just put his little sprinkles on every song. He’s awesome and the best guy ever, and on top of everything he’s probably the funnest person to party with.

Have you guys always leaned toward a R&B sound, or did that progress as time went on? I think we always wanted it to be that way. We always had a strong ’90s upbringing. I mean, I grew up in the ’90s. I was born in ’91, so I kind of lived it, but we never knew how to put what was in our brains onto tape. We’re more rock live rather than on record, so a lot of people were like, “You’re a rock band.” But we were like, “No, we don’t just want to be a rock band.” We have this thing in our brains [where] we want to do something different.

You cross a lot of genres at once. I think we really want to make music that we want to hear. We never sat down like, “Oh, this is going to be huge, people are going to love it!” It was never like that. It was more like, “I f*cking love this sound. I love this song. I love what we’re doing,” so that’s what we’re going to do. And every single person we’ve worked with, every single label we’ve signed to [Columbia, Polydor] has said, “You guys know what you’re doing. We’re just going to help you.”

Even though your album is topping the charts, you’re getting a lot of indie cred. Is Haim an indie band at heart? I don’t really know what, “indie” means anymore. There really isn’t indie anymore. Indie just means you’re doing it yourself, and we did that—we did it for a really long time. I feel like now it’s such a great time for people who want to be in music, because you can do things yourself. You don’t need other people. When we signed to a label, it was kind of just because it was time and this label that we chose was like, “We f*cking love you and we don’t want you to change.” It’s not like we signed and they said “Just kidding, now you have to turn into this like, uber pop girl band.” It’s not that at all.

You grew up outside of LA, but have you been to Vegas before? Of course I’ve been to Vegas! [Not] as a 21 year old though. I turned 21 last year, and all I wanted for my birthday was to be in Vegas—everyone wants their 21st birthday to be in Vegas! But we were touring, and I was in New York for my 21st birthday. So when we come for Life Is Beautiful, it’s the first time I can actually gamble. I’m a big poker fan, so I’m gonna, you know, try my hand at actually going big.

Are you familiar with our music scene then, or are you coming here not knowing what to expect? I’m expecting everything. Life Is Beautiful is the one festival that I’m actually so excited about, because I know the crowd is going to be so epic. It’s just a party. Whenever I’m in Vegas I feel like all you want to do is just be happy and go out and be with your friends and do so many things. The fact that there’s a music festival, it’s kind of like putting the two best things together. You can’t really get any better than that.

Is there anyone you’re really excited to play with? It’s kind of like the homie festival for us. Like, Portugal the Man and Childish Gambino and Passion Pit are playing, and they’re like our close bros. Oh, and Kings of Leon. Well they’re not our bros, but I’m like huge fans of theirs. I wish they were our bros. It’s just kinda gonna be like a huge homie hang. It’s gonna be like a big kid fiesta there. Plus it’s gonna be with all my favorite people, and we’re all gonna be in Vegas. We’re all ending our tours at that festival, so we’re all planning on going kinda crazy and nuts.

I read that during a show, a guy threw his shoes at you and you wore them. And girls have thrown their bras at you, too. Normally that kind of clothes-dropping is reserved for guy-fronted bands. Do you get the feeling you’re flipping the script on the music industry? It’s super unintentional. When we have shows, we just like to have fun when we play, because that’s where we get all our fun out. I don’t need to do drugs or drink or get f*cking wasted, because I have way too much fun onstage. And we love calling people up. I feel like when you’re in the audience, it’s hard when there’s a disconnect. You want to be so close to the person onstage, but if they act too cool and too aloof, it gets boring. You want to see people onstage having fun.

So when I forgot my shoes at home when I was on tour, I was wearing weird Nikes, sweaty trainers, and I was like, “Can someone throw me their cool shoes?” And this dude threw me his shoes. It was awesome, and I wore them for the whole set. We just like having fun, you know? We’re not like a gender-specific band. We just consider ourselves a band. We want to have fun and we want to play music. And if you let us play music, we’ll play for you. That’s pretty much it.

Haim Sunday, October 27, 3:40-4:25 p.m., Life Is Beautiful Festival's Huntridge Stage

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