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I was lucky enough to sit down with the three Haim sisters, Alana, Este, and Danielle, before their sold out show at the Paradise. We talked about their gradual and then swift rise to popularity, their favorite festival to play at, and Primal Scream.
Alana: We were really surprised when we found out that we sold out this venue because it’s just so many people. That’s like so many people and the fact we sold out is such a big deal to us.
WERS: I’m surprised you guys didn’t sell it out sooner. It seems like you guys are just blowing up, popularity-wise.
Alana: We were just confused that we were playing such a big venue. We thought we’d be playing a much smaller venue and when we heard we were booked here we thought “Oh god, there’s only gonna be like four people here.”
WERS: I’m surprised you aren’t playing the House of Blues; you could totally sell out that place. So just going off of that idea that you guys are becoming so popular so quickly, has it changed the band dynamic?
Alana: We honestly don’t really know what’s going on; we really just focus on playing the shows and putting on a good show. We’re just really excited that people are showing up to our show because for a very long time no one did. We’ve been a band for six years and for the first five years, no one really cared.
Este: But we had so much fun playing that we just kept going.
Alana: Yeah, when we started the band we also said we were a live band. We like recording, but playing live is our favorite thing to do. So we just kept playing live and then the Forever EP came out and now we’re here and it’s great and crazy.
WERS: Are you excited that you’re getting so much attention off of one EP or would you prefer it to be more of a gradual thing?
Alana: I mean, it was pretty gradual. As I said, we’ve been a band for six years and we just never really released anything. We didn’t really know what to do. Danielle was on tour with Julian Casablancas and Jenny Lewis and Cee-Lo Green and me and Este were in school. We kind of came to a point where we were in a band for so long and nothing was really happening so we took a year off and just wrote as many songs as we could. Then we met Ludwig (Forever’s producer) and really we spent so long doing that EP; it literally took us forever to finish that EP.
Este: That was really why we called it Forever.
Alana: Yeah it took forever, but Ludwig had a day job so we had to kind of work two hours a day. We’d go into his studio and work from eleven at night and just work until our brains turned to mush. When the Forever EP was done, we just gave it out for free because we just wanted our friends to have it. There was kind of a reputation in LA that we were like the band that could play but could never really record so we basically put out the EP so we could show our friends that we were capable of recording. And then it kind of just happened quickly and we went to SXSW and then it just became crazy. But this is just the very, very beginning. We don’t think that we’ve achieved what we want to achieve. It’s all about baby steps.
WERS: What do you want to achieve? Do you have any set goals or something along those lines?
Danielle: Everything that’s happening… We wanted to make a really good record and we did that and now we’re just… Our goal is to just be able to keep doing that.
WERS: Can you tell me a little bit about the new record?
Danielle: I think its kind of keeping with what we’ve already released. There’s some curve balls and there’s some song that we’ve never played live.
WERS: How would you define the Haim sound? Wikipedia describes it as “Nu-folk with some R&B and hip-hop stylings thrown in for good measure” which seems a bit odd.
Danielle: I don’t know who writes that stuff, but that’s not really how we would describe it. Basically what excites us is having a sound or putting a sound into a song. We love samples and different sounds. We play guitar but sometimes instead of a guitar solo we would rather have a MIDI horn solo. We just like kind of weird sounds and its a mix between organic and inorganic stuff and where it really comes together and sounds good to our ears.
WERS: You’ve been playing with huge pop stars like Rihanna and Mumford and Sons. What’s it like playing these huge arena shows. Do you approach the show any differently from a club show like this?
Alana: No we don’t really approach the show any differently. We were playing these really, really small shows and when we played these big shows it kind of forced us to be more outgoing and be more out there. It kind of trains you to just be bigger and I think that we bring that to the club shows.
Este: I think we like the club shows more.
Alana: I like club shows best.
Danielle: Arena shows are almost overwhelming especially when you’re watching the headliner and you can hear the people singing the lyrics back to the artists and its so overwhelming and its almost too much. But its also the best feeling ever and I think for us, shows like this and smaller venues are really really fun because you really get to get intimate with the audience.
WERS: Have you been getting a good reaction from these support slots?
Alana: Well we were an opener for five or six years.
Este: I think we’re the professional opener.
Alana: We love headlining shows but when you play with huge acts like that we always go out and try to convert people. Everyone has always been really nice, there hasn’t been one crowd that we haven’t liked. I think everyone is just really thirsty for new music now and really like to discover new things so we have yet to find a new crowd.
WERS: Do you think the UK are more open to newer music? It seems like you got way bigger there first and the states had to catch up.
Alana: Well, especially with the radio in the UK — it’s very different.
Danielle: There’s Radio 1 and its played all over the UK. Its paid for by UK tax dollars so they have the chance to take chances with bands like us. They play unsigned bands and you don’t really have that in the states unless its like college radio. I think that the UK has it kind of down in that respect.
WERS: Do you feel more of a connection with UK bands? NME always link you three with Palma Violets…
Alana: Oh, we love them!
Danielle: I think its that we get played so much there and the festival culture there is like all summer and we were surrounded by UK friends.
Alana: We just like making friends. They were the first friends we made in London because we kind of got pushed together and we love those dudes. They’re just really cool. And during the summer we got really lucky because these festivals are just like summer camp for musicians because you just become friends with everyone.
WERS: What’s been your favorite festival so far?
Alana: Glastonbury has been the best. There’s just nothing like it. We’ve played so many festivals this summer and its just the craziest thing I have ever seen in my life. Everyone always says its like a mini city and when you get there it literally is a mini city. There’s two hundred fifty thousand people there and it takes an hour to get from one side of the festival to the other and that’s if you’re jogging.
Danielle: Splendor in the Grass was fun too.
WERS: I know you played with Primal Scream at Glastonbury…
Alana: Bobby Gillespie is the coolest person I’ve ever met. We played with them on Jools Holland and we were really nervous because we never did TV before and they totally calmed us down and helped us out. They emailed us a week later and said, “We’re gonna be at Glastonbury. Do you want to play with us on the main stage?” They’re just the nicest dudes in the world and they’re so good.
Este: Being on stage and feeling that band is so powerful. And they have stories for days, they’re the coolest dudes.
WERS: How was recording the new record?
Alana: Recording was amazing but it took so long because we were going in and out of touring. It’s really hard to say no to awesome tours when they’re offered to you. I think the craziest experience was mixing on tour during festivals season. If any band tries to do that, we did it, its the worst thing to do but we finished and its coming out on September 30th which is really crazy.
Este: When we first were on pre-sale it seemed like we were really far away but now its September and its really starting to creep up.
WERS: You’ve played so many festivals and toured with so many bands. Any favorites?
Alana: The Knife were crazy. I saw them at Pukkelpop. Grimes were amazing. Angel Haze were dope. Foals are awesome. Palma Violets are awesome live. That’s the funnest show I’ve ever been to, the only show I’ve ever moshed at.
Este: The Vaccines were really good at Bonnaroo.
Alana: I saw Eminem, he was dope. Nine Inch Nails were dope.
WERS: One thing you want to say to the fans?
Danielle: We’re really excited to be playing Boston. This is our first time playing here. Alana and I have never even been here.