By Zachary Swickey
It’s always a pleasant feeling when you discover a band that is right on the verge of breaking – still playing intimate local shows, but receiving notable opening gigs and attention from their musical peers. Well, we are proud to let you in on such a group: HAIM, a group of three Los Angeles sisters who craft some of the most undeniably fresh pop music we’ve heard in some time.
The sister collective – Este, Danielle and Alana Haim (rhymes with “time”) – are rounded out by stickman Dash Hutton. However, all members are notably capable on just about every instrument, as we saw first-hand at the posh Palihouse lounge this weekend in Los Angeles when the girls played for an intimate group of enthusiastic fans.
The “three sisters and a mister” performed a shorter, stripped-down set with a floor tom noticeably resting on an egg crate rather than a full-blown kit, for example. There was no real stage and the girls were essentially hunkered down in the corner, but that didn’t stop them from perfectly executing the shimmery pop brilliance found on their debut EP, Forever, which you can snag for free on their website.
“Most of our songs just come from us hearing a beat or rhythm in our heads and then experimenting with it together,” Este told MTV News via email. “We end up throwing out ideas over the beats usually. Some things stick, and some don’t. But we trust each other enough as songwriters, so there’s no fear in suggesting something weird or out there.”
The girls should be proud of their multi-tasking abilities. Danielle had to worry about singing, playing her guitar and occasionally smacking her own floor tom, which stood next to her mic stand. At one point Alana, the youngest of the group, could be sheen shaking up a maraca while playing the keyboard simultaneously. The eldest of the sisters, Este, channeled the energy of Kurt Cobain as she annihilated her bass. She even showed off some impromptu freestyling abilities as she playfully rhymed over a (ridiculously awesome) beat provided by her father, who helped the girls take down their gear.
HAIM, who proudly call the San Fernando Valley home, have been a band for nearly four years now, though music was always a part of their lives growing up. As kids, they would perform classic rock songs with their parents in a family band, “Rockinhaim,” which isn’t the least bit surprising when you see how well they feed off each other in a live setting, and how proudly their father gleamed during the whole show.
“Our dad has always been our number one fan and is the reason we got into music in the first place,” Este gushed. “He always put us on the drums when we were babies to play around and discover new sounds. It wouldn’t be a HAIM show without my dad standing in the wings.”
After getting to hear other HAIM tracks that aren’t found on Forever EP, it’s clear the girls have concocted their own fresh sound and their eclectic list of inspirations may be part of the reason for their originality. Este cited Selena as her biggest inspiration growing up with shout-outs to Aaliyah, SWV and, of course, the essence of cool, Prince. Sister Danielle mentions legendary guitarist Ry Cooder’s ’08 effort I, Flathead, specifically the song “Drive Like I’ve Never Been Hurt,” as a big influence.
A big part of Alana’s musical inspiration belongs to Paul Simon. “Graceland is perfect to me, every sound and lyric he writes is beautiful. I’ll never get sick of that album,” she explained.
By the end of the set, it was abundantly clear that HAIM will be going places. Este told us that being the opening act on the solo tour of the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas is one of best experiences they’ve had so far as a band – it was their first time out on tour and they were stuffed in a ten passenger van with both their parents. However, we can’t wait to witness the many memorable moments that are sure to come for them.
Keep your ears on HAIM, so you can brag to all your friends later that you knew about them before they broke big.