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Even before the 2013 release of HAIM’s celebrated, best-selling debut album, Days Are Gone, the group had already started touring. And then they never stopped—in the years since, Alana, Danielle, and Este Haim have stayed on the road almost constantly, “People kept asking us to tour,” says Alana, “and it was a no-brainer, because we love playing so much.”
So when it came time to put on the brakes and make the hotly anticipated follow-up, Something to Tell You, the sisters wanted to try a different approach, taking advantage of the performing strength they had gained. “On the first record, we were messing around a lot with production and samples,” says Danielle. “Now, coming off of three years of touring, we thought. ‘Let’s just go in and record as a band, keep it a little more organic.’ That was a mission statement for the album.”
The results demonstrate the musical and emotional range of a group that continues to push its own creativity. Something to Tell You was introduced with a riveting video for the spare, intimate “Right Now,” shot live in the studio in one take by Paul Thomas Anderson, and the bass-heavy “Night So Long” continues that lonesome, late-night feel. Meanwhile, the harmonious vocals and finger snaps on “Want You Back,” contrast with its confessional lyric.
“They’re a very different band than on the last record,” says Ariel Rechtshaid, who worked as a producer on both albums. “After three years of touring, they’re on another level. The fundamentals they have are unique—they don’t reference a Chaka Khan song, but the syncopation in the bass and drums.”
It wasn’t tough for the trio to fall back into an old-school sensibility in the studio. When the Haims were still in grade school, they formed a band with their parents, playing classic rock covers at street fairs and charity functions in their native San Fernando Valley. Eleven years ago, Danielle (guitar and drums), Este (bass), and Alana (guitar and keyboards) got their own group in place, with all three sharing vocals and percussion duties. After rehearsing in their parents’ living room, they began booking gigs around town, to growing notice. After seven years of honing their songs, they released Days Are Gone, which sold almost 100,000 copies in its first week.
A Top Ten hit in the US and a Number One album in the UK, the album earned the sisters a BRIT nomination for Best International Group and a GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist. Along the way, according to Rolling Stone, they “helped to redefine what, exactly, the term ‘rock band’ can mean these days”—collaborating on an EDM single with Calvin Harris; enlisting A$AP Ferg for a remix; working the festival circuit from Coachella to Bonnaroo, Glastonbury to T in the Park; and gaining such heavyweight fans as Stevie Nicks.
But when it came time to get a new album going, HAIM first needed to come up with material.
With nowhere to live when they came off the road, they returned to familiar territory, setting up shop at their parents’ house. The living room (which can be seen in their first music video, 2012’s “Forever”) is still set up like a rehearsal space, with instruments and amps already in place. “After everything we had done, it felt nice to be back—to go home and go to my childhood room,” says Danielle. “We rehearsed there every day for seven or eight years, dreaming of playing Saturday Night Live, so to go back there now and is all very surreal, it’s so fucking crazy.”
The Haims had been working at their parent’s home for months, trying to get their compositional muscles back, when they got an offer to write a song for an upcoming movie. “It was like a homework assignment,” says Alana, “and that kick-started a song called ‘Little of Your Love.’ When we wrote that, it felt like ‘Hey, we still know how to do this! It’s happening!’ And then we finally got the ball rolling.”
Once that one was done, confirms Danielle, “it kind of opened up the floodgates,” and soon they had written dozens of new songs. They began the recording of Something to Tell You with producer Rechtshaid (who has also worked with the likes of Adele, Beyonce, and Usher), with additional production from Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batamanglij.
Danielle’s guitar work has been brought further forward on songs like the harmony-rich “Nothing’s Wrong” and “Good for You,” a collaboration with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, while the title track features funkier, syncopated bass and drums. “We definitely wanted some songs that would be fun to play live and that people can dance to,” says Danielle. “We love having that big dance party feel at our shows.”
Rechtshaid also noted a greater sense of honesty and clarity in the songwriting. “The lyrics have themes of finding strength, of old and new love,” he says. “There’s loneliness and vulnerability, but also empowerment. So we just wanted to focus on what is unique about HAIM, and be willing to let them be them.”
“With the first record, we learned that you really need to find people to work with that respect your musicality and ideas,” says Alana. Ariel and Rostam both really wanted to celebrate us as sisters and how serious we are about our music.
With Something to Tell You, HAIM have come further into their own, delivering on the promise of their debut. Having survived—and thrived—spending years on the road with barely a day’s rest, the sisters have now stepped up to become true bearers of the rock & roll flame.
“We’re really feeling like strong women right now,” says Danielle. “Bosses of our own fate, making our own music, not taking shit from anybody, writing every word, every chord and every song. “
“We could work on this record for another three years,” she continues, “we’re that kind of perfectionist. But now it’s time to let everyone hear what we’ve been working on —plus, we want to get back out on tour. So let’s go!”