HAIM: Women In Trivia Pt. III

Jul 24, 2020

HAIM is the pop-rock band made up of sisters Este (bass guitar and vocals), Danielle (guitar and vocals), and Alana Haim (guitar, keyboard, and vocals). Growing up in a musical household, the Haim sisters learned how to play instruments when they were young, eventually forming a family cover band with their parents called Rockinhaim. In 2007, the sisters formed HAIM, mostly playing smaller gigs around the Valley. After Danielle got recruited to play guitar on tour with Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas, the sisters got more serious about the band. They released their first album Days Are Gone in 2013 and were nominated for best new artist at the 2015 Grammy Awards.

Their second album, Something to Tell You, was released in 2017, debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. Their third album, Women in Music Pt. III, was released last month to rave reviews—Pitchfork calls it "far and away their best."

Recorded remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton talk to Este, Danielle, and Alana about playing in a band with their parents, handling sexist questions from rock journalists, and their tour of delis across the United States, which was interrupted by the pandemic.

Then, they take on an Ask Me Another challenge where they identify famous songs based only on the drum parts.


Alana, On Being In A Band With Their Parents

"Rockinhaim started when I was 4, so I could only really pick up drumsticks at that point. And for me, I feel like looking back, I thought, 'Wow, we were so amazing.' I have this very like rose-colored glasses kind of vision about Rockinhaim, like how we were the best band of all time. And my parents sent us some old videos of our gigs at a charity event and we were awful. Everyone in the audience deserves a medal for supporting us during that time because we were... it was bad.

Danielle, On Starting HAIM With Her Sisters

"I was nearing the end of high school, and I had this inclination to want to stay in L.A. and just try and play music. And so I think at that point, I kind of roped my sisters in. I was like, 'You know what, we should really start a band and start actually writing music.' ... My parents were not songwriters, they never wrote music. So, we were just playing covers of songs that they grew up on and songs that they loved. So, they didn't know how to write songs, they just encouraged us to. And we just decided, let's try to gig around town and see what happens. And we did that for five years until we got signed."

Este, On Sexist Questions from Journalists

"It happened not but like a month ago when we were doing promo from the record, and someone, a male rock journalist, asked me who played that funky baseline on 3AM. ... So you know, of course, I'm going to try to make it as clear as possible: I played bass on that song and every song on the record. And every song on the record before that, and the record before that. And I play everything live."

Heard on HAIM & Benito Skinner: Delis And Star Charts

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.


Thanks, Jonathan. We have three special guests today. They're sisters - Danielle, Este and Alana Haim. Together, they form the band HAIM.


HAIM: (Singing) Every time I think that I've been taking the steps, you end up mad at me for making a mess. I can't understand why you don't understand me, baby. Every day...

EISENBERG: Danielle, Este, Alana - welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.




E HAIM: We're so stoked to be here.

EISENBERG: I'm so happy it worked out.


EISENBERG: Este, I know that obviously you are in a family band, but all of you got your start in a family band with your parents before you were HAIM.

E HAIM: Yes.

EISENBERG: You were Rockinhaim.

E HAIM: Yeah, Rockinhaim - no G. Yeah.


EISENBERG: So - and you were all very little. Like, did your parents - was this your parents' idea? Did they sit you down and go, here's what's happening - we're starting a band?

E HAIM: Kind of. I think, you know, our parents have played music with us, like, aside from having a band. Just when we were growing up, our dad taught us how to play drums from the time we could, like, hold our head up...


E HAIM: ...And we could hold drumsticks, you know? And, obviously, as a little kid, like, playing drums is, like, maybe the most fun thing you could possibly do.

COULTON: (Laughter).


E HAIM: So - and then our mom taught us how to play guitar, again, when our fingers could push on the strings hard enough. We were really lucky. We have really, really awesome, creative, hippy-dippy parents that just wanted us to be creative all the time. Our mom was an art teacher. You know, our dad was a musician, like, his whole life. And then one day - it kind of reminds me of, like, that scene in "Selena," where Selena's dad just comes home with, like, a bunch of used instruments and is just like, we're going to have a band together.


E HAIM: And that's literally what happened to us. My dad went to a yard sale in Barstow, which is, like, 100 miles away from the valley where we grew up. And he drove 'cause there were some really cheap instruments that he wanted to buy. And he came home one day and was like, Danielle - like, he says that he, like, got the instruments 'cause they were light. Like, that's how he could tell if they were good or not - was, like, yeah....

EISENBERG: Chose them?

E HAIM: ...Was like, oh, this one feels like a 10-year-old could hold this, you know?

COULTON: (Laughter).

A HAIM: We also were not good. Like, we...


E HAIM: We were OK.

A HAIM: We were not good. Este's being nice.


A HAIM: Like, we were really not good. I mean...

E HAIM: We were OK.

D HAIM: We sucked.

A HAIM: Rockinhaim started when I was 4. So I could only really pick up drumsticks at that point. And for me, I feel like, looking back, I thought, wow, we were so amazing.

COULTON: (Laughter).

A HAIM: I have this very, like, rose-colored glasses kind of vision about Rockinhaim and, like, how we were, like, the best band of all time. And my parents sent us some old videos of, like...

E HAIM: From, like...

A HAIM: ...Our gigs at, like, a charity event.

E HAIM: Our (laughter)...

A HAIM: And we were...


A HAIM: ...Awful. Like, I...


A HAIM: Everyone in the audience, like, deserves a medal for, like, supporting us during that time because we were - I mean, it was bad.

COULTON: Are you telling me, when you were 4 years old, you were not in the greatest band of all time?

A HAIM: I was not in the greatest band.

E HAIM: Come on.

A HAIM: I'm - in my mind, I was. In my mind, I was playing MSG.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: So what happened - obviously, now you are a sister band. So what was the day when you had to say to your parents, you know...


E HAIM: There was never a day where we all three, like, met in my childhood bedroom and we were like, you guys, it's time.



E HAIM: We got to cut Mom and Dad out of the band.

D HAIM: I was nearing the end of high school. And I had this inclination to want to stay in LA and just try and play music. And so I think at that point, I kind of wrote my sisters, and I was like, you know what? We should really start a band and start actually writing music. With our parents, we never wrote - my parents were not songwriters. They never wrote music. So we were just playing covers of songs that they grew up on and songs that they loved. So they didn't know how to write songs. They just encouraged us to. And we just decided, let's try to gig around town and see what happens. And we did that for five years until we got signed.

EISENBERG: Yeah. And when you were starting to learn how to write music - Alana, I think that I read that you would transcribe classic rock songs and...

A HAIM: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Disco hits that your parents listened to?

A HAIM: It was, like - I mean, this was before iTunes and Spotify and Apple Music, and we just had the radio. I mean...

D HAIM: Before YouTube.

A HAIM: Or YouTube, yeah. So...

D HAIM: And I don't even think we really understood how to read tabs. Like, I feel like that was just not...

A HAIM: No, we couldn't read tabs.


A HAIM: We couldn't do anything.

D HAIM: We didn't really know, like, what tabs were. So we would just tape songs off of K-EARTH 101, which was the kind of, you know, oldies station in LA. And then we would just, literally, try to figure them out on guitar. And then also...

A HAIM: Yeah.

D HAIM: ...Try to transcribe the lyrics. So we would sing, like, totally wrong lyrics to these kind of old songs.


A HAIM: But it was a super important process for us, though, because that's really how we learned how to write songs. We had to listen. And once you transcribe a couple of songs, you realize there's A, B...

E HAIM: There's a blueprint. There's a blueprint.

A HAIM: There's a blueprint on how to write songs. And it was a super important process.

EISENBERG: And your first gig ever as a family band was at Canter's Deli, which is a famous deli in Los Angeles. Now, was that the kind of thing, like, you knew them?


EISENBERG: Did you know the people at the deli? Did you guys go there all the time?

A HAIM: We - well, no.

E HAIM: We went there.

A HAIM: We went there, yeah, as a family.

E HAIM: Yeah.

A HAIM: We had heard that there was this music scene that was happening at Canter's. And I think my dad had heard about it, and I think he went to the owners and was like, I have a band. I don't think he told them that it was a band with his children. I think he just said, I have this band that would be great.


A HAIM: It was - like, they gave us, like, the slowest night at the Kibitz Room. And there was, like, two people an audience and I think, like, two of my parents' friends.

EISENBERG: Yeah. That's a gig.

A HAIM: It was great. It was great. And that was our first gig, and we had deli food after. We, like, all had matzo ball soup after. It was cool.

EISENBERG: I want to play a song off your new album "Women In Music Pt. III." This is called "The Man From The Magazine" (ph).


HAIM: (Singing) Man from the magazine, what did you say? Do you make the same faces in bed? Hey, man; what kind of question is that? What did you really want me to say back? What's going on behind those dark glasses? Is this what you think making a pass is?

EISENBERG: And in the next verse, you sing about going to a guitar store. And the man working there is not taking you seriously as a musician.

D HAIM: Yeah. I mean, those are just two experiences that we kind of dealt with. Or, I mean, you know, Este...

E HAIM: Of the million that we've experienced.

D HAIM: I mean...


D HAIM: We would get asked, like, every interview - well, first of all, asked, like, what's it like to be a woman in music? And then the next thing would be like, well, do you want to share some of your experiences? So, you know, after a while, we were just like, you know what? Why don't we put it in a song so everyone can just hear, like, just the tip of the iceberg? But...


D HAIM: Yeah. I mean, the first verse is speaking to a experience that we had when we were first kind of starting out and an interview question that we got about the faces Este makes on stage and if she makes those same faces in bed. And, you know, again, Este, maybe you want to speak about the experience. But we were all just kind of stunned and didn't know what to do and felt super-uncomfortable but also didn't want to make it awkward. And looking back, you know, we should have been like, excuse - like, what? Like, no - next question. I think we just didn't know how to...

E HAIM: We should've just left the interview.

D HAIM: Yeah.


E HAIM: And, you know, the beauty, though, is that, like, that happened, and it will never happen again. And, you know, I've since then gotten some pretty outrageous, weird questions as well. But now I know how to answer, and I also have Danielle and Alana to step in and also be like, next question.

EISENBERG: Yeah. This is where we are...

E HAIM: This is where we stop the interview, and this is where we move on. So...

D HAIM: Yeah.

E HAIM: And it happened not but, like, a month ago, when we were - you know, we were doing promo for the record. And someone, a male rock journalist, asked me who played that funky bass line on "3am."

EISENBERG: The assumption, of course, is...

D HAIM: That we don't play our instruments.

E HAIM: We don't play our instruments.

EISENBERG: No, of course not.

COULTON: Who writes your songs and plays your instruments?

EISENBERG: You got to...

A HAIM: Right.

D HAIM: Exactly.


E HAIM: So, you know, of course I'm going to try to make it as clear as possible. I played bass on that song and every song on the record and every song on the record before that and the record before that. And I play everything live. And that also goes back to, like, the second verse in "Man From The Magazine." You know, Danielle sings about - hey, girl. Why don't you play a few bars? You know, show - like, show me that you deserve to go up the level to the vintage guitar section at a music shop conglomerate that shall not be named.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Right. Right.

E HAIM: Everything from that from, like, oh, so your boyfriend likes Fenders?

A HAIM: The list goes on and on.

D HAIM: It goes on.

E HAIM: List goes on and on.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I know exactly what you're talking about - the amount of times I've been on a show as a stand-up and I've walked in and I've been basically assumed that I'm either there because my boyfriend is performing or, you know, that I'm applying to be waitstaff.

D HAIM: Unbelievable.

EISENBERG: So obviously, you know, you were going to tour, and you decided that you wanted to do it in delis.

A HAIM: Yeah. We had this crazy idea. We were like, why don't we - like, we want to play. We don't really want to play in venues. Like, we want to have - do something, like, cool and, like, be closer to our fans. And I forget which one of us had the idea, but we were like, oh, maybe we should play in delis. And I literally went on Instagram - the power of social media. And I put up a video saying, like, hey. Are there any deli owners that follow us? Looking for deli owners.


A HAIM: And so many people were confused.

COULTON: (Laughter).

A HAIM: So I got so many messages from people being like, are you guys, like, trying to start a deli? Like, are - is, like, music really not working for you guys? Like, you need to, like, start a deli now? Like...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

A HAIM: And I was like, no, we don't want to start a deli. Like, we just want to play in your deli. And we lined up so many amazing delis. And we wanted to go and do some in the U.K., and we wanted to go do some in Australia. And then, of course, after the second deli stop, COVID hit, and we had to go home. But it was so fun playing those first two shows. It was really - it was the coolest thing ever, like, to see all of our fans, like, eating a pastrami reuben while we play, like, "The Wire." It was, like, the best thing I've ever seen ever. I, like, actually felt like I was at, like, a family function. Like, it felt like a family birthday because that's how we celebrate our family birthdays...

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

A HAIM: ...Is getting that big platter of deli meat and cheese.


A HAIM: It was awesome. And yeah, I can't wait. I mean, the deli tour is not dead. The deli tour will commence.

EISENBERG: So we have a great game for you.

D HAIM: Yeah.

E HAIM: I'm ready.

D HAIM: I'm so excited.

A HAIM: I'm ready for the game.

D HAIM: I'm so ready.

EISENBERG: So clearly, you're all skilled musicians. You all play the drums because you were talking about that. It was the first instrument thrown into your hands at the age of 4 or so, sitting on your dad's lap with the kit set up in your family living room. Do you individually have drum kits in your living rooms?

A HAIM: Danielle has a drum kit. You have a drum kit in the studio.

COULTON: You have a drum right there. Look at that.

EISENBERG: Nice. Este just pulled one into the frame. Amazing.

E HAIM: My snare drum.


EISENBERG: OK, so for your ASK ME ANOTHER challenge, we'll play you a clip of the drums from a very famous song. You just need to tell us the name of the song or the artist who performed it.

D HAIM: Yeah.

E HAIM: I'm ready.

D HAIM: I'm so excited.

A HAIM: I'm ready for the game.

D HAIM: I'm so ready.

EISENBERG: All right. Alana, this one is for you.



E HAIM: Lans (ph), you know this.

A HAIM: I - oh. I thought - I'm waiting for it to end. No, I know it. Este, the listeners are also playing, OK? The listeners are playing as well. You have to give them time.


EISENBERG: Alana, what do you think the answer is?

A HAIM: It's The Beatles.

EISENBERG: That's right. The song?

A HAIM: Oh, my gosh. The song - shoot me. (Vocalizing).

E HAIM: Lan (ph), you know it.

A HAIM: I know. I'm - you guys, I haven't had my coffee yet.


A HAIM: (Vocalizing).

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: No, no...

E HAIM: I know it.

EISENBERG: ...It's a lot. We're putting you on the spot.

COULTON: No, she's singing through it. She's got to...

EISENBERG: All right, Este...

COULTON: ...Sing through the chorus.

E HAIM: OK. Sing through it.

A HAIM: "Come Together" - duh.

E HAIM: There we go.

EISENBERG: That's right. That's right.

D HAIM: God, Alana.

A HAIM: I just had to go through the whole song, you guys. Give me a break. I'm bad at this. I said I'm bad under pressure.

E HAIM: OK. All right.

COULTON: (Laughter). All right, Este, here is one for you.



E HAIM: Talking Heads.

COULTON: Yes. Do you know the song?

E HAIM: (Singing) Letting the days go by - let the water hold me down.

"Once In A Lifetime."

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.

D HAIM: That's also one of the greatest bass lines ever.

E HAIM: (Vocalizing).

COULTON: In that song?

D HAIM: It's like two minutes, but it's amazing.


E HAIM: (Vocalizing). It's so funky. (Vocalizing) You know what? And it - because in bass playing, we always say it's not the notes you play, it's the notes you don't play.

COULTON: Yes. Indeed.

A HAIM: Hundred percent.

D HAIM: That bass line's, like, maybe one of my favorite bass lines.

E HAIM: Yeah. She's such a queen, honestly. She's - I bow at the temple of Tina Weymouth.

EISENBERG: All right, Danielle. This one's for you.

D HAIM: Here we go.


D HAIM: "Rhiannon," Fleetwood Mac.

EISENBERG: Yes, yes, yes and yes.

D HAIM: Yay.

EISENBERG: I know you're a big Stevie Nicks fan.

D HAIM: Yes.

EISENBERG: And I read that you have connected with Stevie Nicks.

D HAIM: Yes.

E HAIM: We're three very lucky young ladies...

D HAIM: Yes.

E HAIM: ...To say that we have hung out with Stevie Nicks.

EISENBERG: What did you guys talk about?

A HAIM: Honestly, we talked about everything. Like, every - I mean, we didn't really do much of the talking. I think I was, like - I mean, I'm still so starstruck when I'm around Stevie. But she really is an open book. And we just wanted to hear all of her stories and how she writes songs and how she records songs and what inspires her. I mean, it was mostly just us asking questions and then just having, like, heart eyes in our eyes, just, like, watching her and listening to her. But she's the best.

COULTON: All right. We are going to turn up the difficulty a little bit, so you can all work together on these.

D HAIM: Oh, goodness.

A HAIM: Oh, OK, great. We can all work together. Thank God.

E HAIM: OK. All right.


D HAIM: Oh, my God.

E HAIM: It's weird because...

A HAIM: Oh - oh, wait.

E HAIM: Is it - woo-hoo (ph). Is it Blur?

COULTON: That is a fine guess. That's not what it is.

A HAIM: Is it...

D HAIM: It sounds like...

A HAIM: (Singing) I will do the laundry if you pay the bills.

E HAIM: Oh, "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?"

A HAIM: Yes, "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?"

COULTON: That is correct - Paula Cole.

E HAIM: Yes, Paula Cole.

COULTON: Exactly right.

A HAIM: Paula Cole.

E HAIM: Good job.

COULTON: Wow. That's impressive that you pulled it out of that because that is kind of a generic drum track we're hearing there.

E HAIM: It is.

D HAIM: Yeah.

EISENBERG: But you've played this.

A HAIM: We did play it.

E HAIM: Yes, we did. We did.

A HAIM: We did play it. Oh, my gosh. See? I'm back.

D HAIM: I think that's...

A HAIM: I'm back, guys.

D HAIM: Is that Matt Chamberlain on drums?

COULTON: That's Jay Bellerose.

D HAIM: Oh, Jay Bellerose, OK. Oh, my God - legend.

A HAIM: Legend.

COULTON: So this one is a classic. And again, work together and see if you can figure this one out.



D HAIM: Got it. It's "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder.

COULTON: Stevie Wonder. That's right. Correct.

A HAIM: He is one of my favorite drummers, too.

COULTON: Oh, yeah. He's a great - man...

A HAIM: Amazing.

COULTON: ...His feel is fantastic.

EISENBERG: And harmonica - right? - and piano...

COULTON: He's plays everything.

D HAIM: And bass. And bass.

EISENBERG: And bass?

D HAIM: Yeah, he plays everything.


A HAIM: It's "Doorbell" (ph), no?

COULTON: Yes, it is.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right. So yeah, that was - obviously Meg White is the drummer.

D HAIM: Yeah. What a great drummer, too.

E HAIM: She's such a good drummer.


EISENBERG: Well done. Well done. And thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Danielle. Thank you, Alana. Thank you, Este.

E HAIM: Thank you guys for having us.

A HAIM: Thank you for having us.

D HAIM: Thank you guys for having us.

E HAIM: Any time you want to us on another game show, we're in.


EISENBERG: That's the band HAIM, and this is "The Steps" from their latest album "Women in Music Pt. III."


HAIM: (Singing) Hey; I know we'll meet up again. And if you go left and I go right, hey; maybe that's just life sometimes.


EISENBERG: ASK ME ANOTHER's house musician is Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Hey. My name anagrams to thou jolt a cannon.

EISENBERG: Our puzzles are written by Andrew Kane, Carol Lee, Cara Weinberger and senior writer Karen Lurie, with additional material by Emily Winter. ASK ME ANOTHER is produced by Travis Larchuk, Kiarra Powell (ph), Nancy Saechao, James Barber (ph) and Rommel Wood. Our senior supervising producer is Rachel Neel, and our bosses' bosses are Steve Nelson and Anya Grundmann. Thanks to our production partner WNYC. I'm her ripe begonias.

COULTON: Ophira Eisenberg.


(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.