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Everybody loves Haim: How the sisters became music's MVPs

The band previews its new album, ‘Something to Tell You,’ out July 7

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Zoey Grossman for EW

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Hanging in a cozy dressing room on the set of Saturday Night Live, Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim are munching on salads but getting very excited about pizza. It’s two days before the sister act will perform alongside host Melissa McCarthy on the May 13 show, and following an afternoon of rehearsal and promo shoots, they’re daydreaming about being back on the road. “There is nothing better than coming off stage and being all sweaty and not partying,” says multi-instrumentalist Alana, 25. “It’s us in our Snuggies watching random John Cusack movies and eating postshow pizza.” They keep their routine low-key because they don’t want to get sick — Alana says she has the “immune system of a squirrel,” which prompts snickering from lead guitarist Danielle, 28 — and because they genuinely enjoy it. “I have the best time on stage, but also getting back on that bus and eating that postshow pizza?” says bassist Este, 31. “I wouldn’t trade that for anything.” Alana starts waving her arms emphatically: “Postshow pizza! Yeah!”

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That may not sound very rock & roll — especially for a band known for its blistering live shows — but it’s real. And being their sincere, enthusiastic selves is exactly what put Haim on track for global domination. Since forming a decade ago, there’s hardly a corner of popular music Haim hasn’t touched. Rappers like A$AP Ferg and Kid Cudi remixed their songs and recruited them to sing hooks. They collaborated with Calvin Harris and toured with Taylor Swift. Jay Z, who founded their management company, Roc Nation, is a fan and “gives the best hugs,” according to Alana. Recently, U2 asked to hit the studio with them, and while Haim can’t reveal much, Este says Bono “does a really good Smithers impression.” In 2017, Haim might just be the one band everyone can agree on. “They [cross genre lines] so well, and I think it has a lot to do with who they are personally,” says friend and collaborator George Lewis Jr., who records as Twin Shadow. “They don’t need to hide behind any facade. There are a lot of people who are posturing, and they just refuse to do that.”

That approach is unlikely to change with their second album, Something to Tell You, out July 7. At a point in their careers when anyone in the industry would take their calls, Haim instead retreated to their parents’ living room to make an album almost exactly the way they made their first one, 2013’s Days Are Gone. “The second we start focusing on what everyone else is saying, you’ll see me in the corner under the table in the fetal position,” Alana says. “We literally do what we do. There is no other way we can write songs. There is no other way we can produce songs. We won’t finish a song until it sounds exactly like how it sounds in our brains.”

When Haim released their debut album, they were already adored by music critics, but their mix of classic rock, ’80s pop, ’90s R&B, and other influences still confounded plenty of listeners. One minute they’d channel Fleetwood Mac on a song like “Honey & I”; the next, they’d be wilding out on a hip-hop-flavored scorcher like “My Song 5.” One magazine described them as the antidote to Top 40 divas, praising them for playing their instruments and eschewing choreographed dance routines. But Haim love that kind of music — they’ll gladly tell you about how they once sprinted through L.A. traffic to avoid being late for a Beyoncé show — and they’ve actually filmed multiple music videos with choreography inspired by what they used to watch on TRL. “We don’t overthink those things,” Este says. “As long as we’re having fun and doing what we want? Survey says yes.”

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This cultural omnivorousness is all they’ve ever known. Their disco-loving real-estate-agent parents, Moti and Donna, taught them to play instruments at an early age, starting with drums. For years they performed as a five-member family band called RockinHaim, doing covers of Eagles and Santana at street fairs and other events across California’s San Fernando Valley. But growing up in the ’90s also meant that the sisters were exposed to everything from Ace of Base to Korn to Destiny’s Child. By the time the trio started seriously writing and recording their own songs, “we were really sick of the notion of the rock purist,” says Danielle, who played in touring bands for Jenny Lewis and the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas during Haim’s early years. “In some circles it’d be like, ‘We have to do this to tape live, it needs to be rock & roll!’ Why? You hate drum machines? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

At SNL rehearsals, with their parents looking on, Haim run through two songs: “Want You Back,” the first single from Something to Tell You, and the as-yet-unreleased “Little of Your Love,” which was one of the first songs they wrote for the album. Alana admits that after reconvening to write in their childhood home in 2015 following roughly three years on the road, they faltered at first: “We all have this voice in our head — ‘Can you do it? You lost it!'” It wasn’t until the band was asked to write a song for Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck that they came up with “Little of Your Love.” The track wasn’t ultimately included in the film, but having the assignment helped unlock their creativity. “Everything” — Alana makes a barfing noise — “came out [after that]. The record wrote itself at that point.”

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They reteamed with Days Are Gone producer Ariel Rechtshaid (who is also Danielle’s boyfriend) and brought on ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij, whom the sisters have known for years. Yet the album’s lyrics touch on how their lives have changed in subtle ways. As its title suggests, Something to Tell You deals with the struggles of communication. “When we’re gone all the time, when our friends are away, the one thing we all have in common is, like, it is so hard to tell someone anything!” Alana says. Technology in particular comes up on “Kept Me Crying,” which the sisters say is inspired by the “u up?” text — generally known as universal code for a booty call. “I feel like [the themes are] stuff everyone talks about: having your phone all the time, millennials,” Danielle says with a hint of aversion. “You can preoccupy yourself with all these things, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to figure out how you feel.”

They’re still keeping many details of the album under wraps until it’s out, though it’s hard for them to think about July with their SNL performance looming. (Spoiler alert: They nailed it.) Apart from some tour plans, “I don’t even know what happens after SNL,” says Alana. “My brain stops this week.” Well, maybe they know one thing that happens after the show. Este suggests what perhaps all her sisters are thinking: “We’re going to find a tour bus to get on and eat pizza.”