A folky L.A. trio with a R&B Twist.
By Hobey Echlin
Photographed by Jacqueline Di Milia
Sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim were still in elementary school when their parents conscripted them to play in the family band. Named Rockinhaim, the group was a Valley version of the Partridge Family, and the sisters Haim spent weekends with mom and dad covering classic-rock favorites at Los Angeles flea markets and charity events. Danielle remembers their first show, in 1998, in the back room of Canters Deli on Fairfax. "There was one drunk heckler that kept screaming 'This isn't real! This must be a track!' We laugh about it now, but it was scary."
Judging from their sound now, the sisters' time playing in Rockinhaim gave them both a deep appreciation of their parents' hand-picked FM staples, and the desire to do their own thing as soon as they were old enough to drive. Which explains why now, Haim, minus the "Rockin," still, well, rocks. Haim's Forever EP is infinitely likable, full of timeless, parted-in-the-middle three-part harmonies over un-ironic '80s beats provided by producer Ludwig Göransson (Childish Gambino). It's as folksy as it is funky, and, more importantly, as enduring as it is endearing. "Playing all those covers was the best schooling in songwriting we ever had," offers Danielle, whose guitar chops have landed her side-gigs with Julian Casablancas, Cee Lo and Jenny Lewis. "I mean, it's hard to deny how infectious a song like 'My Best Friend's Girl' by the Cars is."
The band is also indebted to '90s-era R&B, which can make Haim sound as down with Jody Watley as Joni Mitchell. "We loved the percussiveness in the melodies of all that stuff," Danielle says. "Brandy and Monica's 'The Boy Is Mine' is probably one of our favorite songs -- the video kind of changed our lives. I don't think our parents understood why we liked it so much."
Live, Este, the eldest at 25, plays bass, Danielle, 23 shreds and Alana, just 20, does everything else. They're joined by drummer Dash Hutton (and their parents for a few songs when they play L.A.) and can turn a soundman's nightmare (the girls trade-off instruments) into an ass-moving dance party that can open for Cold War Kids or Ke$ha.
When they're not on tour, however, they're still the Valley girls of their youth. According to Danielle, "We're either at our parents' house playing basketball or doing nail art."