HAIM Has 'Something To Tell You' About Sisterhood And Songwriting

Jul 31, 2017
Originally published on July 30, 2017 6:35 pm

Danielle, Este and Alana Haim have been making music together pretty much their whole lives. Four years ago, as the pop-rock group HAIM, the trio released its debut album, Days Are Gone, which launched it into rock stardom.

HAIM spent a few years touring (including opening shows for Taylor Swift) and tossing around ideas with what seems like every big name in music (including Stevie Nicks). But the group also spent that time writing – and this summer, HAIM released its sophomore record, Something To Tell You. It's a record about relationships, one that's deeply influenced by HAIM's time on the road.

Danielle and Este Haim joined NPR for a conversation about how the new record reflects their tastes, their growth and their childhoods in a very musical family. Hear their conversation at the audio link, and read on for highlights.


Interview Highlights

On writing songs about growing up

Danielle Haim: When we were writing this record, we were three girls in different stages of their 20s, which I think is a very interesting time. I mean, I'm 28 – I'm still going through it! There's some songs on the record that touch on being a woman in a touring band, and having to deal with men's egos, and your partner's egos. It's also us growing up. With "Want You Back," it was definitely us taking a step back and realizing that sometimes, you have to realize that you have a part in a relationship that has gone sour.

On the bond between sisters

Este Haim: It's hard to keep secrets with these two. They can see it on my face — the second I get off a phone call, they're like, "What happened?" No matter how hard I try, or how much of a poker face I have. I could be in my house in the Valley and I can feel that Alana or Danielle is not having a good day, or they're having a great day and I'm like, "I need to call these two. What's going on? Something's off!"

On being from a musical family

Este Haim: Some of my most vivid memories [are] coming home and my dad playing drums. And I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't playing drums. It was the same thing as when I came to the realization that not everyone was in a family band. Because I was in a family band from the time I was in elementary school, I just assumed that's what families did. And then when I would talk to my friends about it, I'd be like, "So, when's your rehearsal?" And my friends would be like, "For what?" And I'd be like, "When does your band rehearse with your parents?" And they would be like, "I'm going to the mall this weekend, Este." [Laughs.]

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING TO TELL YOU")

HAIM: (Singing) On the way down.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That is the band HAIM, three sisters from California who've been making music together pretty much their whole lives. They started playing instruments at a few months old and played with their parents in a family band. Since then, they haven't stopped. Their latest album is called "Something To Tell You."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING TO TELL YOU")

HAIM: (Singing) Tell me how you feel. Tell me how you feel. 'Cause I've got something to tell you, but I don't know why. It's so hard to let you know...

KING: Four years ago, their debut album, "Days Are Gone," launched the sisters into rock stardom. And since then, they've been touring the globe. With all that time together, they've become so close that they say they share a weird mental connection.

ESTE HAIM: It's like weird sister - it's like I could be in my house in the Valley, and I can feel that, like, Alana or Danielle is, like, not having either a good day or, like, they're having a great day. And I'm like, I need to call these two. What's going on? Something's off.

KING: This time around, they're singing about relationships with lovers, with each other and with themselves. I had a chance to talk to two of the three Haim sisters, Este and Danielle, and asked them what their record was all about.

E. HAIM: I think when we were writing this record, we were three girls in different stages of their 20s. And, yeah, I think we've all gone through relationships. I think there's some songs on the record that touch on being a woman in a touring band and having to deal with men's egos and your partner's egos. You know, I think it's also us growing up. And, you know, with "Want You Back," it was definitely us taking a step back and maybe realizing that sometimes you have to realize that you have a part in a relationship that's maybe gone sour. And, you know, I think it kind of just deals with those feelings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WANT YOU BACK")

HAIM: (Singing) Just know that I want you back. Just know that I want you back. Just know that I want you. I'll take the fall and the fault. And I'll give you all the love I never gave before I left you.

KING: Danielle, I read this interview with you. You said this thing about your writing process that really stayed with me. You said, I don't fully understand my feelings until the song is done and it's out in the world. How - I mean, when you're listening back now a month later, do you feel a change? Do you say to yourself, oh, that's what I was talking about? That's what I was doing. Like, does it help you process?

DANIELLE HAIM: Yeah. I think for some songs, definitely. I think it kind of differs with each song, but yeah. There's times where I'm like, wow, I was really feeling some type of way...

E. HAIM: That day.

D. HAIM: ...That day. Like, sometimes, I don't fully understand some of the words. I mean, I also think some of the time too, we're very - when we write, it comes melodically first. And sometimes, we'll just be jamming on something. And I'll kind of speak, like, gibberish or something. And it will kind of turn into a line. And then that will kind of inspire the rest of the song. I think we kind of...

E. HAIM: And also, like, a lot of these songs started with, you know, we're all drummers. Our dad's a drummer. That was always our first instrument. And we started a lot of these songs just from drum beats. I don't know if you can hear it on the record, but everything's very percussive.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIGHT NOW")

HAIM: (Singing) Oh, and now you're saying that you need me, baby. Right now, right now. Oh, now you're saying that you love me, love me, baby. Right now, right now.

D. HAIM: The physicality of playing drums is also just so fun. There's like videos of us, like, banging on pots and pans at, like, 7 or 8 months. And I think that my dad...

KING: (Laughter) Seven or 8 months?

D. HAIM: Yeah, yeah, literally, like, babies 'cause our dad would have like a '60s drum set in the living room from the time that we were born basically. And I'm only assuming that my dad was playing drums almost every day since we were born because when we were older, that's - those were some of my, like, most vivid memories is just coming home and my dad playing drums.

KING: Well, it's interesting because you can still - I mean, you hear the discipline today. You guys play the instruments. You write the songs. You play the daylights out of every show. Like, that discipline is obviously really still there. There's one song from the album, a last song that I want to play and ask you about. It's "Night So Long." Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NIGHT SO LONG")

HAIM: (Singing) I say goodbye to love again. In loneliness, my only friend. In loneliness, my only fear. The nights end.

KING: It's so beautiful.

E. HAIM: Thank you.

KING: And it's so intimate. And it's about loneliness. And, Danielle, that's you singing. Can you tell me what that song is about that is - it's just so vastly different?

D. HAIM: Yeah. We wrote that song actually a long time ago. And it was just this - it's just basically a verse repeated twice. It was about, you know, touring and kind of after you play an amazing show, you just go straight back to your hotel room and you're all alone. And sometimes it's just that juxtaposition is kind of intense.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NIGHT SO LONG")

HAIM: (Saying) Then I say goodbye to love once more, no shadow darkening the door. Until your memory is gone, the night so long.

KING: And in the end, I mean, despite that sense of loneliness that you convey so powerfully, the fun of touring, the fun of being on stage, it still outweighs the dark nights?

E. HAIM: Oh, yeah. And, like I said, like, also, the song is like - in loneliness, my only friend. I think there's also a little part of me that even though there's like this deep sadness - it kind of almost feels like maybe I'm crazy - but sometimes it feels like a warm blanket. It just kind of feels like, oh, I - it's nostalgic in a way. I don't know. So it's not, like, horrible. I just think it's - I don't know.

D. HAIM: Sometimes you get bummed. Sometimes you're on the road and you get bummed. But the good news is we have such a good time 99.9 percent of the time that it makes it all worth it.

KING: That sounds like a good way to live, ladies.

D. HAIM: It's fun. We have a great time.

E. HAIM: I hope that makes sense. I don't know, I'm still kind of...

KING: It does make sense.

D. HAIM: No, it does makes sense.

KING: It does. It makes a lot of sense.

E. HAIM: OK.

KING: That was Este and Danielle Haim of the band HAIM. Thank you guys so much for coming by and talking to us.

D. HAIM: Thank you.

E. HAIM: Thank you for everything. That was really fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE OF YOUR LOVE")

HAIM: (Singing) You've got to give me just a little of your love, babe, and I'll try. You've got to give me just a little of your love, baby, and I'll try. You've got to give me just a little of your love, baby, and I'll try. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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