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The day after headlining Webster Hall in New York, the Haim sisters hoist their equipment out of a black van and lug it across a sidewalk to the entrance of WNYC, which is kind of the Big Apple's version of KCRW. Alana, 22; Danielle, 24; and Este, 28—all in matching black motorcycle boots—are double-booked this afternoon, with back-to-back performances and interviews on two different programs.
At this point, they are used to being in demand. It took the band five years to finish their debut album, mainly because the Haims kept getting invited on tours they couldn't turn down: Vampire Weekend, Rihanna, Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons, and Phoenix. And they still had to decline some offers, such as when A$AP Rocky asked them to be his backing band.
On the strength of their debut, Days Are Gone, released last September, Haim booked slots at both Glastonbury and Bonnaroo and won praise from everyone from Katy Perry to The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones. This year, the band have taken some significant steps up the food chain, being tapped to perform dual Friday slots at Coachella this year.
New York City, of course, is a long way from Valley Village, the tiny San Fernando Valley town they grew up in, but there is something about the way they carry their instruments up to the seventh-floor studio that makes them look, even in their badass boots and leather jackets, like the kid musicians they used to be.
They were always a close-knit trio. Their parents used to leave Este in charge of Danielle and Alana, with orders to practice the classic-rock covers they played for their family band, Rockinhaim. In addition to Danielle on guitar and Este on bass, that group also featured Dad on drums, Mom on lead vocals, and Alana, age 4, on the cow bell. They played their first show at Canter's Deli on Fairfax, before graduating to gigs at religious festivals and county fairs.
Seven years ago, when Alana was finally in high school, the three of them began playing shows as Haim. Critics have struggled to describe the band's sound, often falling back on weak comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, and that's partly because they draw from such a wide landscape. Days Are Gone is like a found poem of LA radio sounds, with smooth R&B vocals, blistering classic-rock guitar riffs, and punchy '80s pop drumbeats. "People ask us, 'What did you grow up listening to?' and we're, like, 'Just LA radio,'" Danielle says.
Seriously, though. "People don't get how dope it is," Alana adds. They cite KRTH 101, first and foremost, but they also love KIIS. "My dream is to meet Rick Dees," Alana says.
"And sing 'Disco Duck' with him?" Este asks.
They harmonize: "Discooooo, disco duck."
If you watch YouTube videos of Haim at South By Southwest last year, it's striking how much they've grown as a band since then—they were wilder, noisier and rougher around the edges in those performances. But it's even more striking how close those songs are to the cuts that appear on the finished album.
"The Wire," the single they released last summer, is a good example of how the album grew up with them. Originally written in 2008, the sisters rerecorded it every year, sometimes three times a year, until they got it right.
When it came out, "The Wire" exploded online, raising Days Are Gone's buzz. Not that they've had time to notice.
"Did it explode?" Alana asks, genuinely surprised. In fact, the success of that single helped the band sell out Webster Hall the night before.
It's clear when they take the stage—even a small, studio stage such as the one at WNYC—that those days are gone. Any trace of naivete evaporates as they launch into a searing rendition of "Falling."
Onstage, the soft-spoken middle sister, Danielle—who tends to hang back in interviews, ceding the floor to her sisters—commands the spotlight. But they perform as a unit, lost in a kind of hypnotizing psychic sync.
Looking on from backstage is their entourage, old Rockinhaim band mates Mama and Papa Haim. While the band performs, their mother whips out a bejeweled phone and flips through pictures of the previous night's show, pausing on one of their father in front of Webster Hall, beaming proudly, pointing at their name up on the marquee.