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Haim: Sisterhood of the Traveling Hits

Southern California siblings Alana, Danielle, and Este have ridden their indie-blog buzz straight up the charts — and into the hearts of music fans (including pop stars and prime ministers) who can’t get enough of their sunny retro-rock sound

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No other group charmed the music world as swiftly and completely as Haim did this year. The California-bred, AM Gold-loving trio of sisters — lead singer and guitarist Danielle, 24; bassist and singer Este, 27; and keyboardist, guitarist, and singer Alana, 22 — had a stellar 2013: Their debut full-length, Days Are Gone, took them from buzz-band status to the Billboard top 10, and its deep well of soulful-but-sharp pop-rock anthems is a fixture on year-end lists. In the meantime, they’ve made fans of everyone from British prime minister David Cameron to Katy Perry to rap president Jay Z (whose Roc Nation now manages them), and bewitched audiences at muddy festivals and the SNL soundstage alike. Simply put, they did everything this year — and we talked to them about it all.

Friends in Every Area Code
When Este’s personal cell-phone number leaked online late last year, the band decided to keep it open to fans as a sort of Haim hotline. “When it first started happening, we were like, ‘Whoa, this is weird,'” Danielle says. “But then we ended up just getting the best messages from everyone. It’s a great way to connect with the fans.” (We’re not printing it here, creepers; you’ll have to Google it.)

Taking Down a Timberlake
Days Are Gone debuted at No. 1 in the U.K., besting a certain tux-happy superstar. “That was crazy,” Danielle says of outselling Justin Timberlake and giving his 20/20 Experience2 of 2 a rare second-place bow. “It was really one of those weird moments, because we grew up listening to him; we’re such big fans. We were listening to FutureSex/LoveSounds a lot when we were making the record. So…sorry, JT!”

Fulfilling a Saturday Night Live Dream
Playing on the late-night institution is a big deal for any rising act, but the moment was especially poignant for Este, whose childhood dream was to be an SNL cast member. “Like, that was the goal,” says the onetime theater kid. “To finally be on the show is insane. It doesn’t even compute to me now.” She thought she had the perfect plan for 30 Rock domination: “There was a dinner celebration after the show. I sat next to Lorne Michaels and started eating his french fries — I was basically finishing his food for him. I talked to him about how they’ve never had three people host SNL at once. So why can’t they have me, Danielle, and Alana? He just shut me down…. And of course, my sisters are looking at me like, ‘Are you insane?'”

From Stevie to Chaka
It’s no secret that Haim claims a lot of ’70s and ’80s soft-rock influences — the group actually began as a family band called Rockinhaim that included their father, Moti, on drums and mom, Donna, on guitar, and covered songs by the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. But the sisters refuse to be pigeonholed: “We were listening to a lot of Neptunes and Pharrell productions from the early 2000s when we made the record,” Danielle says, “and Chaka Khan.” The trio delivered a soulful cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” this fall, and for Alana’s 22nd birthday (on Dec. 15, a few days after this interview took place), Taylor Swift is on the docket. “I feel like every 22-year-old needs to jam ’22’ on their birthday,” Alana says. “Taylor’s a genius,” she adds. “[That age] doesn’t really get that much love, and Taylor totally wrote an epic song about it. I hope it can be my entrance song on my birthday. I’m just going to walk in slow motion.”

The Wheels on the Tour Bus Go Round and Round
They’ve been on tour nearly all year as headliners, openers — for Phoenix and Vampire Weekend, among others — and sought-after festival favorites. “We last went home, like, two months ago,” Alana says via phone from Glasgow, still high off their Dec. 10 London gig, which saw Este and their friend Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine crowd-surfing. (Asia, New Zealand, and Australia are next on the slate; U.S. dates resume in April.) And no, they don’t hate each other yet. “The turning point for all of us, I think, was when I got my license,” Este says of the trio’s tight-knit dynamic. “Growing up in L.A., getting around wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. So once I got my license, we were able to go see local bands, have fun. That’s what solidified our friendship, beyond being sisters — we had a lot of practice by going out together and raging. We kind of have a black belt in the art of going out.” Alana concurs: “I don’t really have any homesickness, because my home follows me,” she says. “Which is kind of why I feel like we could tour for the rest of our lives.” Adds Este with a laugh, “Three sisters with a license to drive — a recipe for a good time.”