Haim might be big news, but they share and fight over clothes – as sisters are wont to.
In the past year since they released their debut EP Forever, the three Los Angeles sisters who make up Haim have beaten Justin Timberlake to the No.1 spot on the British charts, headlined major music festivals such as Glastonbury, signed a management deal with rap supremo Jay Z and won BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2013 accolade.
Their success has been celebrated not with champagne or any other kinds of alcohol so much as with the tears of their mother.
Alana Haim, 22, tells us: “My mum cries all the time. I can’t go through a conversation without her crying – she’s just so proud. My parents didn’t expect any of this to happen.
“When we were kids, they bought us instruments because they wanted us to have an activity to do together. There was no like, ‘Oh you guys are destined to be a band and be rock stars’. It was never like that.
“For them to see that we could go do shows and people know our songs, it’s overwhelming.”
Indeed, far from being wild rock stars, Alana and her elder sisters Este, 27, and Danielle, 24, still live with their parents whenever they are not on tour and do sisterly things such as share their clothes.
The songs in their debut album, Days Are Gone, were also written at their Southern Californian family home and the cover features the three sisters sitting on their house lawn.
Their music, however, has gone way, way beyond their home. The album went to No. 1 in Britain and No. 6 in the United States when it was released last September, and critics have been falling over themselves to heap praise on the Haim girls.
The New York Times likens them to past female pop trailblazers, describing Haim songs as having the “sinister bubblyness of early Madonna, the erotic power of Pat Benatar, the breathlessness of Sheena Easton or Laura Branigan”.
What followed became, in Alana’s words, “the craziest year of my life”.
“I think like a year and a half ago, I was a nanny. I took care of three kids every day. Then we released the Forever EP and I got to go on tour.
“I didn’t expect all these amazing things to happen.
“We’ve been so lucky and felt so much love from so many people from so many different places and countries, it’s just really insane.”
Glastonbury, certainly, was among the things that blew their minds.
“I think the most memorable moment of 2013 was playing with Primal Scream at Glastonbury like right before the Rolling Stones went on stage,” recalls Alana.
“It was like the most insane thing, seeing all those people and seeing them go crazy. You see a crowd of people and they look like ants – there are just so many faces that you don’t realise how many people are even out there.
“I never thought that I would actually see that kind of moment.”
She cannot get over the fact that Primal Scream, a seminal 1990s dance-rock band whose frontman is Bobby Gillespie, invited them to Glastonbury.
“I still don’t understand why they even asked us to play with them. We’re dorky and not cool and thought we would probably ruin everything. Bobby was like, ‘No, you’ll be fine’.”
The sisters started out playing music as children with their parents, who were real estate agents. The family band, Rockinhaim, which featured their father on drums and their mother on guitars, played covers at local charity fairs (“mum is like the biggest Chaka Khan fan”).
Post-Rockinhaim, Danielle and Este briefly joined pop act Valli Girls, who recorded a song for the soundtrack of 2005 teen movie The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants.
A year later, together with Alana, they formed Haim and started playing gigs around California, with Alana on rhythm guitar, keyboard and percussion, Este on guitars and bass, and Danielle on lead vocals and lead guitar.
Their big break came in 2012 after they released three-song EP Forever, which garnered a lot of attention from the music press and pundits.
By Alana’s account, they are still getting used to being in the pop music stratosphere.
“When we met Jay Z, he was just super excited and he was like ‘Yeah, you guys are part of the family and we’re so excited’. And we were like, ‘You’re Jay Z, what are you doing, why are you talking to me, why are you acknowledging my presence?’
“They are like the coolest company to be a part of, it’s such a nice family to call my own, it’s really rad.”
The ties in her own real family are strong.
Alana says: “People ask all the time, how does it work being in a band with your sisters? I honestly don’t know how it works. It just does.
“We’ve played together since we were so young and we realised at a pretty young age how to work with each other. I feel like every sibling knows how to push the other siblings’ buttons, but know not to.
“We’ve always been best friends even when we are not on tour. I think the longest we’ve spent away from each other was a couple of months.”
The only thing they fight over is clothes, she adds. “You stole my jacket and now it’s gone. Where did you leave it, why is it dirty? I just cleaned this.”
While the band have been hard at work on the road and have not been getting much time off (“I think I got to sleep in my room at home only 13 days in the whole of 2013,” says Alana), the youngest Haim is very much looking forward to their first gig in Singapore.
“I am excited to go to Singapore because I hear it’s really hot and it will be our first vacation from cold weather.”
Their parents might come along, too, and if they do, the fans are in for a treat, she teases.
“I don’t know if they’ll go to Singapore, but if they do, we’ll definitely have a Rockinhaim show.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network
*Haim plays the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival at The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay in Singapore on Jan 25. Other festival highlights include Kurt Vile, The Observatory, Daughter, Chvrches, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Frightened Rabbit, Savages, James Blake, Mount Kimbie and more. Ticket info at: www.sistic.com.sg.