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HAIM's Sunny Sound Gets Somber On 'Women In Music Pt. III'

Jul 5, 2020
Originally published on July 6, 2020 9:34 am

The sister band HAIM is synonymous with the sound of Los Angeles — sunny, airy and wistful. After a two-month delay due to the coronavirus, sisters Este, Danielle and Alana finally get to share their third record, Women in Music Pt. III, with their fans. NPR's Scott Detrow spoke to the Haim sisters about creating a record that's a little less sun and a little bit more shade as they explore some of the darker challenges that each sister has faced lately. Listen in the audio player above.

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SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Sometimes, our remote interview hookups run into problems, especially if there are three sisters and one pet involved.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

DANIELLE HAIM: But - oh, I'm sorry. That's my dog.

ALANA HAIM: Danielle's dog hates FaceTime.

ESTE HAIM: Hates when Danielle's on FaceTime.

D HAIM: I'm so sorry.

DETROW: That's the sister trio HAIM. They've been video chatting each other and hearing Danielle's dog chime in about it quite a bit lately as they quarantine like the rest of us. But they're also promoting their third album, called "Women in Music Pt. III."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I KNOW ALONE")

HAIM: (Singing) Been a couple days since I've been out calling all my friends, but they won't pick up. Found another room in a different place, sleeping through the day. And I dream the same. I don't want to - I don't want to give...

DETROW: The release comes after a two-month delay due to the coronavirus, and critics are calling it their most direct album yet. That's because the band's sunny and airy LA sound gets somber on this record as it explores some of the challenges that each sister's faced. I spoke to Este, Danielle and Alana Haim from each of their homes in LA. And I asked them about whose idea it was to make this album so personal. Here's Danielle Haim.

D HAIM: You know, I think it was a collective thing. We were coming back from tour, I think, after six years of nonstop touring. So I was feeling pretty depressed. And the thing about making music with my sisters, which I had kind of learned in this process - but we do it all the time - is I can kind of start to go down a deep spiral and bring my sisters in with me because they have the same neuroses that I do. So I got a therapist (laughter). And that was step one. But yeah, I think now we've learned maybe you don't have to tell everything, not enough to, like, pull you down with me.

DETROW: So let's walk through one of those songs, then. Let's listen for a moment to "I've Been Down."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'VE BEEN DOWN")

HAIM: (Singing) I've been running around town, feeling up and down. Taped up the windows at the house. But I ain't dead yet...

DETROW: So, Danielle, can you walk us through working through this song and what you were trying to get out of it?

D HAIM: I feel like I've seen a lot of behind the scenes on making albums, and I feel like a lot of my favorite songs on other people's albums are ones that they say were the last ones that they wrote or recorded on the album. Like, we just wanted one more. Like, we kept pushing ourselves. So I was like, maybe we - I kind of got the hunger. Like even though this album's already, like, 15 songs long, let's try to do one more.

A HAIM: One more song.

E HAIM: Song.

A HAIM: One more song.

D HAIM: Let's just do it. Just do it. It'll be really simple. I want to do, like, a really simple song chord wise, but let's try and do something cool with the melody. And so the way that the verses are just this kind of stream of consciousness lyric. And I feel like I was, like, trying to be Jimi Hendrix.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'VE BEEN DOWN")

HAIM: (Singing) I'm waking up at night. Tick tock, killing time. A little moonlight coming through the blinds. The love of my life sleeping by my side. But I'm still down...

D HAIM: We wrote and recorded this song, I think, in three days, and it was the last song that we did on the album.

DETROW: So then you're working fast. You're creating fast. And then, of course, you have to sit around and wait and wait and wait and wait because the coronavirus comes.

D HAIM: Yeah.

DETROW: I mean, the themes that so many of these songs are feelings that so many people around the world have had to deal with over the last few months. How have you all coped with quarantine?

E HAIM: I think that I suffered the most. I have a very bad co-dependency problem when it comes to my sisters. I depend on them a lot, and they're my two best friends. And to go from seeing them and hanging out with them every single day - I kind of went full "Cast Away" and, you know, started talking to myself and then answering myself. And then I painted two exercise balls with Danielle and Alana's faces on them and started talking to them. You know, I missed them. And...

D HAIM: Aw.

E HAIM: Like, I'm a Type 1 diabetic, so I literally didn't see anyone because everything on the news was like, if you're diabetic, I feel bad for you (laughter) because you're in danger. But I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAIM SONG, "HALLELUJAH")

DETROW: Let's walk through another song, "Hallelujah."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HALLELUJAH")

HAIM: (Singing) Old fears, helped to ease them in my mind. New tears say that they will dry in time. Why me? How'd I get this hallelujah? Hallelujah...

DETROW: So you all have very personal lyrics and sections of the song. Alana, I want to talk about yours. Why this moment? Why this song to work through the grief of losing your best friend in 2012?

A HAIM: For the longest time, I couldn't really put anything into words. Even though "Hallelujah," I mean, it was a huge step for me to talk about it. But it feels like the tip of the iceberg. Like, it still feels like I haven't even done enough. But it was, like, a really nice step to be able to talk about it. And even though it happened so many years ago, I'm still every day going through it and trying to deal with it. And to have other people that have gone through the same thing and had felt exactly the same way that I felt really did make me feel like I was going to be OK, that I wasn't so alone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HALLELUJAH")

HAIM: (Singing) Hallelujah.

DETROW: So just to shift gears a little, Danielle, I read that one of the inspirations was Andre 3000's "The Love Below," which is something that I love. What was it about that album that attracted you? And how did it work its way into this?

D HAIM: I remember when I was in high school when it came out, Este got, like, a burned CD of it. And we would just listen to in the car every day. I was so obsessed with it, specifically the song "Prototype."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROTOTYPE")

OUTKAST: (Singing) I hope that you're the one. If not, you are the prototype...

D HAIM: Everything about it. I mean, there was humor in it. There were these little skits in it, too, which also reminded me we've never actually been, like, funny on record. And I just was so inspired by that.

E HAIM: That whole era. There was, like, an era of I think when Danielle was a freshman in high school and I was a senior. I drove carpool. Alana must have been, like, 11.

A HAIM: Yeah.

E HAIM: Where I think collectively we all started becoming obsessed with music. I used my babysitting money to buy CDs at Second Spin in The Valley. And to me, it was really exciting to kind of expose new music to people and like - and a weird flex in a weird way. Like the typical 18-year-old hipster thing to do, like, have you ever heard of this? Have you heard this?

D HAIM: I got the new Sufjan. Do you want to hear it?

E HAIM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. The new Sufjan is impeccable, you know?

A HAIM: Also, Este's car - it was, like, a hand-me-down car, and her CD player was, like, first-generation CD player so..

E HAIM: It was awful.

A HAIM: ...So if you hit a bump, like if you went over, like, a speed bump, the CD would skip.

DETROW: It would skip.

A HAIM: And it would scratch the CD.

E HAIM: Yeah, skip, scratched. Oh, man, what a time to be alive. That year of high school was so much fun. I was so excited because my little sister was at school with me, and we ruled the school.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE STEPS")

HAIM: (Singing) So, baby, when I'm near you...

DETROW: Este, Danielle and Alana Haim's new album is called "Women in Music Pt. III." Thanks so much.

A HAIM: Thank you.

E HAIM: Thank you.

D HAIM: Thank you, guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE STEPS")

HAIM: (Singing) You used to come by and sit down by my side... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.