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Haim interview: ‘Holy shit! Stevie Nicks is saying something to me!’

By Aaron Tamazou

HAIM - Press Shot (NEW)

I catch Alana Haim – youngest member of the LA-based sister act that’s taken the UK by storm – on the afternoon before the band were supposed to begin their recent British tour. Middle sister Danielle is suffering from bronchitis, though, so they’ve had to reschedule the first date. “In the 21 years I’ve known Danielle she’s honestly never been this sick!” Alana says. “Really what it is is that Danielle is crazy afraid of needles – her biggest fear is getting a shot. Me and [eldest sister] Este have been wearing gloves and masks around her.” The following Tuesday, I attend the band’s confetti-filled gig in London, and thankfully Danielle appears to have made a gutsy recovery.

The Haim sisters had quite the 2013, as was signposted when they won the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll in December 2012. After hitting the summer festival circuit hard, they released their debut album Days Are Gone in September and saw it debut at Number One, and recently performed on a little-known TV show called Saturday Night Live. Discussing their latest run of sell-out live shows, Alana says modestly: “It’s so weird because we’re so new to being headliners. It was kind of like the joke around LA that we were always the opener never the headliner – always the bridesmaid never the bride kind of thing. No one ever trusted us to headline because they didn’t think anyone would show up.” It’s safe to say the band have shaken off that particular misgiving now.

As much as it seems like Haim are the hot new thing, they’ve actually been performing as a trio for five years, and before that they played as a family. “We were in a band called Rockin’ Haim with my parents and we only played covers of songs we’d heard on the radio,” Alana recalls. “It was kind of dorky. I mean, at least I thought it was dorky. There was a time when I thought it was cool when I got over the weird angsty teen thing, but for the most part I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so embarrassing, I’m in a band with my parents and we play Billy Joel covers.’”

When Alana was in her first year at high school, the siblings decided to ditch the ‘rents and go it alone as a three-piece. “Our first show was on 07/07/07 in this abandoned clown museum called CIA – the California Institute of Abnormal Arts – there’s like mummies and animals in formaldehyde, it’s the weirdest place to play.” Though they were well used to playing live because they’d done it for so long, the band ran into some difficulties when it came to recording. “It was so new to us. We had no idea,” Alana recalls. “We’d go into the studio for a couple of days every year and try to record, like, 17  songs – which is so not how we work; we need time. We’d get it back and think ‘this sounds like shit, we’re not putting it out’. We didn’t want to put something out that was shitty so we just didn’t.”

They finally settled on a debut release some four years later, when the Forever EP came out in July 2012. “I think a lot of people got really confused because we were this band that had just put out an EP, but we were so well-rehearsed because we’d been playing for years. When we got out on stage we were so comfortable and people were like, ‘who the FUCK is this band?!’ We just came out of fucking nowhere but really we’d been around for like five years but no one gave a shit. So it’s just kind of been this whirlwind. It’s just been a fucking crazy-ass rollercoaster that’s awesome. I never want to get off – it’s been insane and we’re so pumped.”

So do mama and papa Haim ever feel left out now that the girls have made it big on their own? “Haha! We saw my parents in New York when we played Saturday Night Live and I literally could not stop my mom from crying. It was the first time we saw them in months so they were literally glued to us for like four days while we were doing SNL. We were on the radio and the disc jockey wanted my mom to say something. She was like, ‘Donna come over! How do you feel about your girls being on SNL?’ And literally no words came out; she just started crying down the mic. I was like, ‘MOM, you need to STOP crying it’s gonna be OK.’ My parents are just so unbelievably proud and they always wanted us to do this.” Indeed, Mr and Mrs Haim flew in from LA to surprise them at their second night at London’s Forum venue last month, when Alana invited the audience to “go say hello! Mom will probably be crying.” Sure enough, she was. Aww.

NEW PRESS IMAGE (Sept13)Critics have tended to brand Haim a Fleetwood Mac-cum-R&B girl-band hybrid, but how do the sisters define their sound? “Oh my God – we’ve literally been a band for so long and I’ve yet to figure out how to answer this question,” Alana says. “I always think when any band comes out there’s always a ‘they’re a mix between this and this’ – I think that’s so funny because most of the time the band has no idea where it comes from. We literally could be a mix between like, The Wiggles and Van Halen – I have no fucking clue what we are. Saying our name in the same sentence as Fleetwood Mac is kind of like the craziest thing to hear because I was SUCH a big Fleetwood Mac fan growing up. I honestly don’t hear Fleetwood Mac [said with a Californian upward inflection to the max], I mean maybe it just comes out subconsciously and I don’t realise it. Maybe it’s because we’re from LA, the Laurel Canyon scene, and we have a lot of hair – I have no clue. We were influenced mostly by the music we listened to as kids. My parents were really big on disco and funk and my dad was huuuuge on the Latin, Spanish radio stations. I knew all these Spanish songs but I can’t speak a word of Spanish. It’s just like a big salad of music that we listened to growing up and that’s kind of what comes out of us when we write songs.”

Not so long ago, the sisters bumped into their Fleetwood Mac idol Stevie Nicks at a party. “OH MY GOD – It was crazy. It was the craziest thing,” Alana gushes. “Me, Este and Danielle have a long history of sneaking into places to see music. We grew up sneaking into venues because we didn’t have money. We basically snuck into this party. I don’t know who invited us. I don’t think we actually got an invite. I think we just showed up and pretended we were supposed to be there and the people at the party just believed us. We’ve just learned to walk through: don’t look at anyone and don’t talk. Be chill.”

“Anyway,” Alana continues,  “one of our friends at the party had interviewed Stevie Nicks months before and she was like, ‘Just go! She’s not going to kill you or get her security guards to make you die, just go and talk to her!’ So we walked up to her and she had this INSANE aura around her. When people are like, ‘yeah she’s this whimsical, witchy person – she is. She’s magical. She looked at me and said a sentence to me and to this day I don’t remember what she said because I was literally like, ‘HOLY SHIT. Stevie Nicks is saying something to me. I am going to remember this for the rest of my life.’ She was so nice and so awesome and I think she called us ‘really rock and roll’ which is pretty cool.”

With rock and roll comes fans of course – and for the whole of this year’s festival season the band would be greeted by a mysterious bouquet of blue and white flowers. “We would show up at a festival and there would always be these flowers with a haiku note. And it would always be to Danielle. It would never be to Este or me. It was awesome because we always had beautiful flowers in our dressing room but it was just kinda crazy and weird. But I’m down.”

Danielle may be be attracting the most romantic attention from fans, but the sisters have very different taste in guys anyway… with one exception: “We’ve actually never fought over a guy. There’s only one guy we would all fight over and that’s Drake. We’ve made a pact as sisters – if Drake ever liked one of us, the other two sisters have to give up. He’s the one dude that we’re all obsessed with. Literally, he could just have his pick of whichever Haim he wanted.”

The interview ends with an impromptu marriage proposal when I ask Alana how she’ll be celebrating her 22nd birthday the following weekend. “Shall we get married? Let’s get married next week!” she suggests. “That will be the best 22nd birthday ever! Are you in London?! I’m going to be in London, let’s get married!” Though unsure how to feel about forever playing second-fiddle to Drake, I accept excitedly. “Yeah? Done? Settled. I asked you to marry me. It’s very 2013.” I’m still waiting for her to turn up at my door with that ring, but if anyone were going to turn me, it would be the super-fun, super-cool and super-hawt Californian princess that is Alana Haim.

Haim’s debut album Days Are Gone is out now.