"I honestly feel like this is a cathartic experience," says youngest sister Alana as she shoos away Haim’s tour manager who has just tried to wrap up our interview after the allotted window of time has ended, wanting to continue our impromptu "therapy session" a while longer.
With her sisters Danielle and Este, the three-piece continue to puzzle over the age-old difficulties of communication on their new album, 'Something To Tell You', which they first dug into on the now almost decade-old fan favourite, 'The Wire' ("It’s the hardest thing for me to do"). And it is similar trains of thought that continue to endear Haim on this sophomore record, as they harmonically traverse through heartbreak anthem 'Kept Me Crying', ask "was my love too much for you to take?" in 'You Never Knew', and regretfully dissect being hoodwinked by an "honest man" (read: dishonest) in 'Found It In Silence'.
Returning to Australia for Splendour In The Grass 2017 and a one-off exclusive Sydney sideshow, Coup De Main caught up with the Haim sisters recently to discuss the many somethings they had to tell us...
...for me, the word 'love' holds so much weight. I would never use the word 'love' unless I truly, deeply, 100% meant it, because it’s so special to me. Falling in love is such a special experience for me...
COUP DE MAIN: My favourite thing about Haim songs is that they remind you of your self-worth. You can be at your most vulnerable like in 'Kept Me Crying', but you have such an empathetic way of helping the listener draw strength from you - it’s like a hug in song-form. How much time do you spend composing your lyrics?
ALANA HAIM: Thank you! I think we spend a lot of time on lyrics - always perfecting. We’re always really percussive with our lyrics, as you can tell, everything is very percussive when it comes to our music, but I think it honestly just comes from how we’re feeling that day.
DANIELLE HAIM: And making sure that the lyrics evoke that very specific feeling of whatever we’re trying to convey.
CDM: In 'The Wire', which is one of Haim’s oldest songs - now, like a decade old? - you admit that communication is "the hardest thing for me to do." And now ten years on with 'Something To Tell You', communication problems still seem to be a reoccurring theme. Why is it so "hard to let you know that we're not seeing eye to eye"?
ALANA: Because being vulnerable and just saying how you feel, still, is the hardest thing I’ve ever, I think we’ve all ever, had experiences with. There are 40 million ways you can communicate with someone in this day and age in 2017, yet you still can’t look someone in the eye and just be like 'I love you' or ‘I want you’ or ‘we’re not working’ or ‘I don’t know what to do.’ There are so many ways that you can just say how you feel, yet there is that voice in your head that makes you feel like you shouldn’t say how you feel or you shouldn’t just blurt out what you’re thinking, and I think that that’s kind of at least for me--
DANIELLE: I think as we grow older, we’re getting better, with time.
ALANA: Give us time! I think that’s where this record really took off, us growing up and realising that you kind of just have to do it, and that’s kind of where we’re at. Loving life.
ESTE HAIM: Thirty, flirty, and thriving.
ALANA: I’m not there yet unfortunately.
CDM: Almost, you’ve only got five years to go.
ALANA: Oh god!
CDM: That unspoken acknowledgement of the impending ending of a relationship that neither person wants to address, the literal 'Something To Tell You', is that the hardest part of a relationship?
ALANA: Yeah, I think it’s this kind of thing where-- sorry I feel like I’m talking the most, but maybe it’s because I’ve been hurt the most. <laughs>
ESTE: <rolls eyes>
ALANA: I think it’s this kind of thing where when you say something it’s out there and you can’t take back what you say, so when you’re in this weird kind of dance with the person that you’re with and you want to tell them what’s going on and how you’re feeling, but you know that the second that you do it’s never going to be the same and you’re hoping you will get stronger but maybe you won’t, I think that is a very scary fork in the road to be faced with.
DANIELLE: I think it’s also a big reason why we started writing songs, just trying to convey a feeling or emote something that is hard to kind of put in words. I think that’s a lot of the reason why we were drawn to songwriting in the first place, was because with music or with a mood or with something sonic, you can convey what you’re feeling a little more so than just in a simple sentence.
CDM: Did you always intend to write 'Nothing’s Wrong', 'Something To Tell You', and 'Found It In Silence' as a trilogy of songs? Or was it something you realised in retrospect?
DANIELLE: Definitely in retrospect.
ALANA: Yeah, in retrospect. We always talk about this thing where we kind of write songs in what we call a very mystical subconscious kind of way... We don’t really understand the words until we can digest them later. And the thing with a lot of this record, was that we would go back and look at the lyrics that we had written either a couple days or a couple weeks ago, or listen to the songs we had done, and we were like, ‘Oh shit, we were in a specific place at that time when we were writing this song.’ So yeah, it was definitely not a [planned] trilogy.
DANIELLE: I think sometimes with some songs or some lyrics or some lines, months after, that is when we’ll kind of understand them. Like Alana said, it’s very mystical.
ALANA: It just kind of comes out.
DANIELLE: It’s a very crazy process.
CDM: Alana, you told Pitchfork that 'Found It In Silence' is about, "Realizing you can heal yourself. You don’t need anybody else to do that for you." Do you think the importance of self-care and putting yourself first, is an important lesson for everyone to learn?
ALANA: Yes, oh my gosh, definitely. I’m only twenty-five so I am just beginning my journey of trying to figure out life and being and growing up, and I think there is so much going on and everybody forgets that you need to heal, especially going through anything traumatic. I had to go through many different kinds of traumatic things in my early twenties, and I think sometimes you push things away and you don’t want to deal with things. And you realise later that you should have just taken time and really thought about it and cared for yourself and healed yourself, because if you don’t heal yourself and you don’t feel whole, it can really hurt you in the future. I think it really just comes with time. When I was like seventeen/eighteen, I would run around being like, 'Whatever!' I didn’t really care and threw everything to the wind. You look back and you’re like, 'Oh wait, I probably should have taken a second, taken a breath, and tried to figure everything out.' It’s all a learning experience, but I do think that being able to heal yourself, which is the hardest thing that anyone can ever do... It’s very hard for you to heal yourself, but if you can and you figure out a way... That may be thinking about it in a way as just channeling it into art or reading or travelling or doing something for yourself where you do it for you and not anybody else. It’s so helpful and it’s very important. If that makes sense? I might be rambling.
CDM: Don’t worry, I would tell you if you were saying jet-lagged nonsense.
ALANA: It potentially could be. We flew in last night.
MY FAVOURITE SONG FROM ‘SOMETHING TO TELL YOU’ IS…
CDM: In an interview with NPR, you said that 'You Never Knew' is about experiences you’ve had with imbalance in relationships and men's egos, which makes that song really important, because that perspective and narrative is rare to hear sung about in pop music. There’s so much guilt placed upon women who choose to prioritise their career over relationships. Does that struggle get easier?
ALANA: Does it get easier? Oh, I don’t know, talk to me in a couple of years. The thing is that I have never wanted to be with anyone that doesn’t respect what I do.
DANIELLE: Unfortunately, I think we have all been with people that don’t respect us, or feel threatened by... Not in my relationship now, but I’ve definitely in the past been in a relationship where someone was also a musician and they put me down all the time and didn’t understand my music, to the point where I would write in a closet because I was scared that he would hear. And now that I’m out of it, it’s just so mind-blowing that someone can be--
CDM: No! Danielle!! You were Harry Potter, living in a cupboard.
ALANA: Danielle, you are Harry Potter! Ariel [Rechtshaid] is Dobby!
DANIELLE: I know. But it’s crazy, I think that whoever you’re with should celebrate you and support you and not feel...
ESTE: I think the whole thing is that, at the beginning it’s all, 'Yeah this is cool!' At least in my experience, at the beginning it has always been like this cool thing, like, 'My girlfriend is in band!' And then after a while the novelty wears off for them, and it’s like, 'Wait a minute. Why don’t you do X Y and Z? Why don’t you do this or do that?' And then it becomes this weird manipulative thing and then they’re like, 'Wait a minute, but you were so cool at the beginning, like, what happened?!’ And I think that that’s kind of where I am with it. The men that I’ve dated, they look at it as something that’s like, 'Oh it’s cute my girlfriend is in a band.'
DANIELLE: But also, I think growing up we never accepted, at least for me, I would never have accepted that someone could be jealous or something. Because our parents were so supportive of everything that we did and we were surrounded by so much support, I think in my past relationships, when that stuff did come out it was like, 'Wait, this isn’t? No, maybe this is not what’s happening?' And then in hindsight, I’m like, actually he was just completely, not jealous, but just competitive.
ALANA & ESTE: Yeah!
DANIELLE: And manipulative. I just feel like--
ALANA: This is like a therapy session, I love this.
CDM: Well, we haven’t sat down for a proper talk in a while. And apparently you’ve got something to tell me.
ALANA: I know! I’m into it.
DANIELLE: The song kind of speaks to it--
ESTE: I think we’ve come out stronger because of it.
CDM: And it’s such an empowering song!
ESTE: Yeah, like, 'Fuck you!'
CDM: The lyrics, "Now you're saying that you love me," in 'Right Now', is a musical manifestation of the word 'love' being used as emotional blackmail and as a weapon. Do you think that the word 'love' has too much power associated with it? Or not enough?
ALANA: Personally, for me, the word 'love' holds so much weight. I would never use the word 'love' unless I truly, deeply, 100% meant it, because it’s so special to me. Falling in love is such a special experience for me and it doesn’t happen-- I’m not a very ‘fall quickly’ person, and also I’m never in the same place for more than a couple months, so when I fall in love... I mean, I can literally count on like four fingers who I’ve been in love with, so I always think that word is very important. But I think I’ve been in a situation where, yeah, it’s like that song. We wrote that song as a song about empowerment, because when you’re so hurt by someone, when they hurt you, and then you always want them to crawl back and say, ‘I need you.' And that song really helped me through a really tough time where I was going through that situation where you just are so angry and the person uses their love to just manipulate and you’re just like, ‘Fuck you! Now you want me! Now you can’t have me!’ And it’s great. I think that that song right when we wrote it, it felt very powerful, it felt like it held a huge weight, and it helped me personally.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING SOMEONE HAS EVER TOLD ME IS...
SOMETHING I WANT TO TELL ALANA IS...
SOMETHING I WANT TO TELL DANIELLE IS...
SOMETHING I WANT TO TELL ESTE IS...
CDM: Listening to 'Want You Back' always makes me feel like I’m a Disney Princess running to meet my man. If 'Want You Back' were to soundtrack a brand new ride at Disneyland, what would the ride be like?
DANIELLE: Oh my god.
ALANA: Oh my gosh.
DANIELLE: A rollercoaster of emotions!
ALANA: Yeah, it would have fourteen loop-de-loops and it would go through a tunnel of love. You know, like in ‘Hey Arnold’ when they’re in the tunnel of love.
ESTE: And there would be like a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride situation where there is, <imitates Mr. Toad> 'There’s a roadblock! How do we get around that?!'
ALANA: It would actually just be Este in the ride--
DANIELLE: Trying to get a boyfriend.
ALANA: Este would be like an animatronic person being like--
ESTE: <screeches> ‘Hi! Are you my boyfriend?! Are YOU my boyfriend?’
CDM: I’m so happy you worked with Twin Shadow again on this album! 'Edge' from your last album was so good. In 'Ready For You' you promise to treat a potential love interest right, but in the eyes of the Haim sisters, how can people treat you and your sisters right?
ALANA: It’s so simple, it’s so simple! All you have to do is not be a fucking asshole literally. Just be nice and--
ESTE: And funny--
ALANA: And chill.
DANIELLE: Literally, that’s it, that’s so easy. That’s not hard.
ESTE: Supportive and funny.
ALANA: That’s it.
ESTE: And adventurous.
ALANA: I was going to say that!
ESTE: Adventurous is a big one.
CDM: "Stop running your mouth like that / 'Cause you know I'm gonna give it right back," from 'Little Of Your Love' is among the sassiest lines on the new album. What’s the sassiest thing a Haim sister has ever said to a man in real-life?
DANIELLE: Oh my god.
ESTE: The sassiest?
ALANA: <to Este> I feel like you’ve given a good one-liner or something.
ESTE: I know! The sassiest thing I’ve ever said to a dude? Probably, after they’ve like tried to make out with me, I’ve probably said something like, "You have to wine me and dine me before that. Flower me and shower me."
ALANA: That’s pretty good.
CDM: Was he a cowboy?
ESTE: He was wearing a cowboy hat.
ALANA: What’s it with you and cowboys?
CDM: You have a thing for cowboys!
ESTE: I have a weird thing for cowboys. There is line-dancing in The Valley called Oil Can Harry’s--
ALANA: And that’s where Este goes.
CDM: I don’t know if I wanted to know this.
ALANA: Este loves a line-dance.
ESTE: Oil Can Harry’s, look it up! It’s fun line-dancing, and it’s literally around the corner from my house in The Valley. There is something about line-dancing that is just really fun, and until you’ve done it, you don’t understand. Do you know what I mean?
ALANA: What a way to end.
A MESSAGE FOR NEW ZEALAND FROM HAIM:
Haim’s new album 'Something To Tell You' is out now - click here to purchase.
Watch Haim’s 'Want You Back' music video below...