Q&A: Este Haim On Days Are Gone, What’s On Her iPod, And Selling Real Estate
The three Haim sisters — Este (25), Danielle (23) and Alana Haim (21) — plus drummer Dash Hutton, have spent the last year churning out some of the best power-pop around and playing must-see live shows around the world. After we named HAIM a Band To Watch last year, they’ve been featured on dozens of Best Of lists, won the BBC’s Sound Of 2013 award, and earned enviable opening slots on tours with Phoenix, Florence And The Machine, Mumford And Sons, and Vampire Weekend. All this before they ever put out an album. They are rectifying that when their debut LP, Days Are Gone, comes out on September 30 via Columbia Records. The 11 tracks on the album, which includes last summer’s buzzy sun-kissed hit “Forever” along with the “Falling” and “The Wire,” captures the band’s ability to make irresistible pop songs with serious hooks and percussion that is hard to not dance to.
We talked to Este Haim about the new album, stagediving in a dress, and her plans to sell real estate if this whole rock n’ roll thing doesn’t work out.
STEREOGUM: You hit the festival circuit pretty hard this summer. What makes a good festival?
HAIM: A good festival means good food, good people and, really, I like quirky. Quirky makes a festival stand out. I went to a festival that had a tent that was all candy … rows and rows of candy. We love playing festivals, but we’re also having fun. We’ve always wanted to travel and see the world together and we’re getting to do that and it’s been incredible. This was really the best summer of my life.
STEREOGUM: I caught your set at Oslo’s Øya Festival and you put on an incredibly fun live show. Do you think your live energy is captured on the album?
HAIM: I really love playing live, but making this record taught me that making records can actually be fun. Before we went into the studio, I was very vocal about how much I don’t like the studio. I don’t like the repetition and the re-recording. I didn’t know how fun it could be until we started working on it. We got to work with some amazing producers, though, and they really taught me that being in the studio can be fun.
But I really love playing live. We consider ourselves kind of a live band. It’s so much fun. Stage diving is the ultimate high. I was always too scared to do it and never did it before this summer. I did it at Heaven in London. I wanted to do it and I just sort of blacked out and just jumped and it was the best feeling and only afterwards did I realize that I did it in a dress. No regrets!
STEREOGUM: You generated a lot of buzz last summer with “Forever” and now you’re finally putting out your first album. Do you feel pressure or just excitement?
HAIM: We’re really excited but would be lying if we weren’t a little stressed about it. You only put out your first record once! But we’re really proud of it and we worked really hard on it. Still, it’s like having a baby and putting them on TV and having people criticize it. It’s a risk but one we’re willing to take.
STEREOGUM: Speaking of which, how are your parents dealing with your newfound fame?
HAIM: Here’s the thing: if I was a science teacher at a school my parents would be proud of me. When I went to college my parents were really excited. Throughout our childhood my parents were really passionate about all of us having a back-up plan. They encouraged us to play but the whole time we were in the music room playing they wanted to make sure we had a back-up plan. They were supportive but realistic. They taught us to work hard.
STEREOGUM: So what’s your back-up plan?
HAIM: When I turned 18 I got my real estate license. I wanted to sell real estate on Million Dollar Listing on the Bravo Network. I got my license, but I never got to use my license. I have never used it. But if all else fails, there’s still that.
STEREOGUM: Would you date any of the guys on Million Dollar Listing?
HAIM: Oh my god, no. Probably not. I’m probably a foot taller than all of them. I want to date a guy who is at least five or six inches taller than me and I’m six feet tall. If we’re talking about dating from reality shows I would probably go for the guys on Basketball Wives.
STEREOGUM: But they’re all taken, that’s why they’re on Basketball Wives!
HAIM: We’re living in a hypothetical world.
STEREOGUM: Speaking of relationships, how many bad breakups went into making the album?
HAIM: Not that many. The album is partly personal, but when we were writing songs we used our experiences and our friends’ experience and the things we read about in books.
STEREOGUM: Which books influenced your album?
HAIM: All three of us are big into Bukowski and Fante, who was one of Bukowski’s biggest influences. He wrote about LA’s Angel’s Flight in Ask The Dust. We could pick something off the wall and write about it. I mean, we’ve had our share of relationships, some good, some bad, you have to take something away and some of those relationships are in our songs, but there’s no Taylor Swift shenanigans going on. There’s no … what’s the Jewish equivalent? Oh yeah there’s no Dear Shlomo on the album.
STEREOGUM: That’s almost disappointing. Is Taylor Swift on your iPod?
HAIM: She is! I really liked “Our Song.”
STEREOGUM: What else is on your iPod now?
HAIM: The iPod that I use is the one I got for my high school graduation it’s this clunky white 60 gig. It’s so old, but it still works. It hasn’t made it to the Apple graveyard yet. You have one of those, right?
STEREOGUM: Yep. Under my bed.
HAIM: I have the orange Macbook and a bunch of other stuff in there. But on my iPod I tend to have new songs that I get sick of and then delete after I listen over and over again. Right now I’m really into Bat For Lashes. Got to see her a lot on the festival circuit and we dorked out and told her about what big fans we are and she said that she liked “Forever” and we were dying inside that she even knew one of our songs. We listen to Kendrick Lamar a lot and Yeezus gets us pumped for our shows. J. Cole. Now, he’s tall. He’s such a babe. He’s literally 6’6″. I just felt so comfortable in his arms. I let the hug go on a few seconds too long but what can you do? We had a whole moment about getting vegan barbecue in Austin and going on a bicycle caravan ride around the city, but it never came to fruition. The iPod also has a healthy dose of Motown, Temptations, Boys II Men, Smokey Robinson, Jackson Five, Spinners.
STEREOGUM: What was it like recording your first record?
HAIM: Our mission statement when we set out to make this record was … well, we had a wish list of producers, two of whom were Ariel [Rechtshaid] and James [Ford]. We loved Ariel’s work with Cass McCombs and Charli XCX and in the first five minutes we found out we had the same childhood. We were all Valley kids, did all the same shit, went to all the same schools, had a million friends in common. Plus we all take production really seriously. We had a five-hour hang out when it was supposed to be a thirty-minute introduction. We ended up getting beers and vegan sausage and hanging out for hours. We knew right away that we wanted to work with him. We were all on the same page and we all wanted to experiment. He had really great ideas and we were really excited to work with him.
And James, well, he hadn’t done a lot of production in the year before, so we were the first band he worked with after hiatus. That week we wrote and demo’d two songs “Don’t Save Me” and “Let Me Go.” We cut them in a week and they were done — the melodies and the drum track. We did all that in the studio. Then we got to show James around LA. We took him to a bunch of bars, ate our weight at Tender Greens, got to go to Amoeba and do record shopping. It was nice to take a breather out of the studio and have some retail therapy. We just had a lot of fun, which was very different for me. I was used to the studio being stressful, but this was just the opposite.
STEREOGUM: Do you think your drummer ever feels left out?
HAIM: Dash? No. Oh my god, Dash is the fourth Haim sister. He’s the best drummer we’ve ever played with. We’ve known him for years, but only become actual friends in the past three years. We’ve been a fan of his forever. He’s been in a bunch of cool bands and all the girls would go see them play because all the guys were so hot. Now he’s like family. We hang out every chance we get even now when we’ve had a few days downtime. I’m always texting Dash asking him if he wants to go to a movie. He’s the king of nicknames and the pun-believable.
STEREOGUM: Are you saying pun-believable?
HAIM: Yeah! He’s the king of them and of the bad joke. Like the other day he asked, “What do tired munchkins do? They take napkins.” Kinda funny, right?
STEREOGUM: What’s the best nickname he’s come up with for you?
HAIM: Fiesta. Part of the fun of a nickname is the inside joke and it’s a long story.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a nickname for him?
HAIM: Dashiki. Dashlee Simpson.
STEREOGUM: How did you end up drumming with him? You’re all pretty accomplished drummers and it seems like one of you could be drumming.
HAIM: It’s all my dad’s fault. He always made us practice percussion and handed us drumsticks when were babies, but he always said, “Don’t ever become a drummer because there’s too much shit to schlep.” After hearing your dad say “don’t be a drummer” for years, there was just too much negativity attached to drumming. All of us can play drum and sing but playing with Dash is so much fun. It must be pretty intimidating to play with us because we all have strong opinions about drumming. He did and it totally clicked.