Jay Z gives great hugs, Bono is hilarious, and other things you learn while hanging out with Haim
The sisters preview their new album, 'Something to Tell You,' backstage at 'SNL'
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Is there anything Haim can’t do? Since forming a decade ago, there’s hardly a corner of popular music that Danielle (28, lead guitarist), Este (31, bassist), and Alana (25, multi-instrumentalist) haven’t touched. Their music gets both Top 40 and alternative radio play. Rappers like A$AP Ferg and Kid Cudi remix their songs and ask them to sing hooks. They’ve collaborated with Calvin Harris and toured with Taylor Swift. Jay Z and U2 are fans. And with their second album, Something to Tell You, arriving July 7, the band seems more poised than ever for global domination.
In conversation with EW earlier this month at Saturday Night Live — where they were preparing and rehearsing to be the musical guests on the May 13 episode — the sisters opened up about the themes of their new album, their love for Beyoncé and Rihanna, and why everyone needs to watch A Goofy Movie as soon as possible. For the full feature story, pick up the new issue of EW, on newsstands now. In the meantime, here are 12 things we learned while hanging out with Haim.
1. They are huggers
When they arrive at the legendary Studio 8H for SNL rehearsals, Haim start giving hugs out right away to pretty much everybody. They hug SNL employees they remember from their last visit to the show. They hug someone from their label who came by to watch them prep. They hug me, even though we haven’t even been introduced yet and they probably don’t know who I am. They give out hugs like it’s an Oprah’s Favorite Things episode, refusing to rest until everyone in attendance gets one. If you met them, they would probably hug you too, and then they’d give you another hug when it was time to say goodbye. When they hop on stage to start rehearsal, they hug crew members and sound guys while they wait to don their instruments. And when they finish rehearsal, their parents, who are in town and were watching the whole time, come over and everyone starts hugging everyone all over again.
2. Their postshow routine is super chill
Alana once declared that she and her sisters were “the chillest rockstars ever,” and the band maintains that’s still the case. “There is nothing better than coming off stage and being all sweaty and not partying,” Alana says. “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 Danielle — and because they genuinely enjoy it. Says Este: “I have the best time on stage, but also getting back on that bus and eating that postshow pizza? I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Their crew feels the same way. “No one parties!” Alana says. “We found 12 people that like to do the same thing we like to do. We each take turns, we each pick a movie, and you have to watch a movie.”
3. They can read each other’s minds
“We still have this weird sister telepathy,” Este says, and it’s kind of true. Throughout our conversation, the sisters routinely finish each other’s sentences, and they often guess what one is about to say before she says it. At one point, while discussing their major musical influences, Este and Alana are ping-ponging band names back and forth and happen to say “the oldies station” at the exact same time, prompting Alana to shout: “Whoa, get out of my brain!”
4. They have great taste in movies
To help EW readers get to know the band better, I asked each sister to name their favorite movie and the song from their debut album, 2013’s Days Are Gone, that best describes their personality. Alana goes first, picking A League of Their Own (“I cry every time”) and “My Song 5,” a genre-busting, hip-hop-flavored track (“Because I’m spicy”). Este, the self-described cinephile of the group, picks Cinema Paradiso and “Falling,” a slick, R&B-tinged tune, because she’s “clumsy.” Danielle picks Best in Show and “Honey & I,” the song that tends to draw the most Fleetwood Mac comparisons of any song on their debut LP — but she doesn’t get to explain why it’s her choice because Alana cuts her off. “I knew you were going to say that,” Alana says.
5. But their love for ‘A Goofy Movie’ is something else
You’ll never see Haim happier than when the sisters are discussing 1995’s A Goofy Movie. It doesn’t even need to be relevant to the topic at hand to come up in conversation with them. When asked about whether there were any unexpected influences that rubbed off on the making of Something to Tell You, Este thinks for a moment before mentioning that the film’s soundtrack came up on her shuffle the other day. Immediately, Alana and Este start harmonizing and singing “Eye to Eye,” a song from the film sung by the character Powerline. “It is one of the best movies ever made,” Alana says. “The fact that no one has covered [“Eye to Eye”]? I honestly think it’s up to us. We need to cover Powerline. It’s the best movie. If anyone has not seen A Goofy Movie, go see it.”
6. They adore Rihanna (duh)
At one point, Danielle compares the band’s writing process to a Mr. Potato Head toy: They often work section by section, coming up with parts for songs and later piecing them together into a finished product. “If we’re feeling like a part isn’t right, we’ll always save it,” she says. “There were some songs that had choruses for a really long time and we were like, ‘We need to come up with a verse.’ … We’re pulling bridges and verses and other [ideas].” When I mention that this process is similar to how some writing camps have made hits for Rihanna, the three light up. “Oh my God, we have something in common with Rihanna?” Alana says, punching the air. Danielle, practically whispering, adds: “She’s everything.”
7. Nothing will get between Haim and Beyoncé
Haim is signed to Roc Nation, the management company that Jay Z founded. Alana says he gives “the best hugs,” but it doesn’t take long for a conversation about Jay to turn into a conversation about his wife. “Everyone knows on this planet I’m obsessed with Beyoncé,” Alana says. “We went to the Formation Tour at Dodger Stadium and got stuck in traffic. We got out of the car and ran a mile.” Danielle backs her up: “It was a good mile,” she says. “I was thinking that I was definitely going to have some friends be like, ‘Bitch, I see you running!’ That’s how awkward we were.”
The sisters say they’re rarely recognized in public when they’re not working. “Instead of people being like, ‘Oh, I think that’s Haim?’ they’d be like, ‘Who are these crazy girls with long hair running in the street and screaming?’” says Alana. “We got there the second the lights went out, and then I got to see Lemonade and I cried.”
8. They don’t need much alone time
Some artists need a break from their bandmates between album cycles. Haim are not one of those bands. In 2015, after roughly three years of touring, the band went right back into their family living room to begin work on what would become Something to Tell You. “We didn’t really take any time off,” Danielle says. And while working, Este says, “We would say, ‘Okay, Sunday is our day off,’ and then we’d end up having brunch together anyway. At the end of the day, we obviously have separate lives. I like going to movies by myself at midnight! But we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. I think that the one thing our parents really instilled in us as kids is [that] we’re always just going to have each other at the end of the day.”
9. They’re all about positive vibes in the studio
For Something to Tell You, Haim reunited with producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who produced much of Days Are Gone and has since worked with Beyoncé, Madonna, and Adele. (He is also Danielle’s boyfriend.) “He’s so good at working not just with us, but with women in general,” Alana says. “He’s so nurturing, and he has such an interesting ear.” Adds Este: “We’re very heavy-handed in everything that we do, including production. He’s so patient with us because we’re mad scientists in the studio. We’d be like, ‘Can we make that sound more round?’ And he’d know [what that means]!”
They also worked with ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij, whom the sisters have known for years. Says Este: “The thing I loved about Rostam is that every time I would do a take and I didn’t feel like I did my best, he’d see it on my face and be like, ‘Come on, Este! You’re such a great bass player!’ He’s such a good cheerleader. And obviously Danielle and Alana are my biggest cheerleaders as well, but to hear it from someone I’m such a big fan of and respect? It was the best feeling.”
10. Their new album features some special guests
Haim originally wanted to keep their circle of collaborators small for this album: “There’s already three cooks in the kitchen, you can’t really add that many people to the mix,” Alana says. That plan didn’t ultimately pan out, however. “Ariel’s studio is like an open-door policy,” Danielle says. “Whoever’s in town runs through Ariel’s studio because we’re all friends. That’s what happened with George and Dev.”
Dev is Dev Hynes, who records as Blood Orange but has also written and produced for Sky Ferreira, Solange, and Carly Rae Jepsen. George is George Lewis Jr., who records as Twin Shadow and co-wrote the bonus track “Edge” from Haim’s first album. For Something to Tell You, he co-wrote the song “Ready for You.” “We worked on it more when we bumped into each other at a coffee shop than we actually did at the studio,” Lewis says.
11. One new song is inspired by the “u up?” text
As its title suggests, communication is a major theme on the sisters’ second album. “In general I feel like it’s stuff everyone talks about: having your phone all the time, millennials,” says Danielle Haim. “You can preoccupy yourself with all these things, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to figure out how you feel, or [how to] tell someone you’re intimate with or friends with exactly what’s on your mind.” The band says “Kept Me Crying” was inspired by the “u up?” text, while “Ready For You” touches on devotion in an era of endless choices. “Everyone has an infinite amount of options in terms of how you pick your friends and lovers, and you’re open to communication with so many people,” Lewis says. “This idea that one person can still be special and get all your attention is becoming a bit of a novel idea in a way.”
12. They’ve hung out with Bono
Recently, U2 asked to hit the studio with the band — and the sisters understandably freaked out. “We were like, ‘Are you sure you want to hang out with us?’” Este says. Adds Alana: “We listened to music and ran around Malibu. And we took an epic picture that I have framed and my mom also keeps in a locket.” The band can’t share much about what they discussed or worked on, but Este says that Bono is “really funny” and “does a really good Smithers impression.”