HAIM is three California sisters who sing, play drums, guitar, bass, and despite the pressures of getting big, appear to be having a great time together. Este, Danielle, and Alana grew up playing music and still practice in their family house. These ladies equally front the band taking turns on vocals and instrumentation, and on stage you can really feel the love. After a much buzzed about SXSW performance and a year of touring they signed with Colombia, were nominated by the BBC sound of 2013, and are spending the winter opening for Florence and the Machine. We saw their live show at Music Hall of Williamsburg and caught up with Danielle.
Full Name: Danielle Haim
Hometown: Valley Village, LA
Lives In: Valley Village, LA
Past Bands: Julian Casablancas and the sick six
Current Bands: Haim
Fav Venue: Troubadour
Gear: Ludwig and Slingerland kits
Fav Food: Vietnamese
It was always my dad’s dream for us each to have a cocktail drum set next to us when we played in the band.
Tom Tom Magazine: What age did you start playing and what was your first instrument?
Danielle Haim: Drums was my first instrument. My dad started teaching me when I was just 4 years old!
Amazing! How did your parent’s support shape your attitude toward music?
They were both really supportive of the arts in general. Music was the closest to their hearts though. Playing music with my family is the strongest memory I have of growing up. I was always convinced I would end up pursuing music any way I could.
How does the creative process work for you as a band, who writes the songs?
We all write. It’s a very collaborative process.
Is there ever friction spending so much time with your sisters, or are you really as adorable and kind to one another as it seems on stage?
Ha! No not really. We spend time with each other outside of music too.
On stage, you have a backing drummer, but you three sisters play one deconstructed set, Alana the floor tom, Danielle (you) on the kick, and Este the rack toms, genius! Where did this idea come from?
It was always my dad’s dream for us each to have a cocktail drum set next to us when we played in the band. I think cocktail drum sets are pretty cool but can look and sound a bit cheesy so we figured out a way to make it our own. My dad still won’t let us forget it was his idea!
Of you and your sisters, you are the only one who has spent time touring with other musicians. How did this change the way you play music with your sisters?
I don’t think it really changed much, just made us all realize it’s possible that we could really do it. It kind of stepped things up for us in the sense that we locked ourselves away and wrote for a year, then released the forever ep.
The sound of your music borrows big bass beats from hip hop; are you pulling drum samples, or are you producing your own beats acoustically and then manipulating them?
We never use full drum loops, but we have used samples of single drums to make our own loop. Some of the time we play it and then manipulate by distorting it or using some effect and then map it out. Most of the time we play the full take.
Alana was also playing a drum sample pad – which sampler do you use and what is on it?
It’s a Roland SPDS. I started to use it when I played percussion for Julian Casablancas. There’s our own samples that we load onto it in there.
It’s exciting how you use drums in your live performance, the physicality of the drumming plus the tandem hair whipping really works the crowd into a frenzy – is that your intention?
Were all frustrated drummers so it’s our way of ending the set with a bang!
By Sarah Strauss for Tom Tom Magazine
Illustration by Ann Medhurst