Anatomy of a Song: How spontaneity helped Haim write 'The Steps'
“We wanted to write something we could really perform — something up-tempo that felt like a karate kick to the face," says Danielle of the band's newest single.
Haim are no strangers to flipping the script in the music industry handbook. Over the last seven years the sister trio have worn their cheesy family band like a badge of honor. At the height of “rock is dead” declarations, they scored hit after hit with their unabashedly guitar-driven jams. And with the announcement of their third album, due out later this year, Haim swiftly dunked on every person who’s ever asked how it feels to be a woman in music.
Here, Alana, Este, and Danielle break down their latest single “The Steps” — one of the many standout moments on their upcoming record Women In Music III.
Scream It Out
“The Steps” began with a lyric.
“It kind of just felt like therapy to scream the line, ‘You don’t understand me!’” says Alana, 28. “I remember when we were writing it, we would just scream ‘You don’t understand me!’ and see how it felt.”
“The inspiration was just a feeling of making a really bare-bones rock song,” adds Danielle. “We wanted to write something we could really perform — something up-tempo that felt like a karate kick to the face. The riff is tough and straight to the point. I’ll never forget when I first sang that really high note. Normally we come up with the melody first, but I think the melody and the lyric came at the same time, and that never happens. That’s where we all went, ‘Wait—there’s something good about this.’”
Danielle is Haim’s resident GarageBand wizard, but she’s also a big fan of her Voice Memos app. “I’m pretty sure my phone is f---ed because I have literally dozens of [Voice Memos] on there,” says the 31-year-old singer-guitarist with a laugh. When they started working on “The Steps,” the hardest part was trying to channel the energy of that iPhone recording. “It’s always a puzzle,” says Alana, “to try to capture the magic of that first hour that you wrote something. We all strive to have our music have that spark.”
It’s Not That Serious
“The Steps” is fourth in the line of singles from the band’s upcoming record, Women in Music Pt. III (out this summer). The project hints at the sisters’ diverse musical upbringing, and has them sounding more carefree than ever. “I think we’re the most confident we’ve ever been, and I think that vibe permeates the album,” says Danielle. “We’re saying it now, but at the time it was very spontaneous. We wrote ‘The Steps’ in a day, a week before the album was going to be turned in, and just stuck it on there. It was really important to us to be spontaneous — to just have fun with it and not take everything seriously.”
That attitude found its way to the the music-video shoot for “The Steps.” Directed by frequent collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson, the clip follows the sisters as they wake up and stomp around a big house in L.A. In one scene, Este, 34, takes an epic plunge into the backyard pool. “It was like minus-two degrees,” says Alana, who struggled to keep a straight face during the jump. “Este is the one that does the most s--- in our music videos. Este’s the choreographer, Este does the stunts, Este is the MVP of Haim music videos.” Adds the eldest Haim sister, “I like to say yes rather than no.”
The Inspo Below
“One of the main inspirations for this album actually was a lot of The Love Below and André 3000,” says Danielle. “That record had so many vibes to it, but is still a full, complete, cohesive, album. Sonically I think that was an inspiration. But also I love that he's poking fun at himself and having these vignettes of funny little parts.”