Pinch me: I interviewed Alana from Haim, inarguably the most acclaimed mainstream pop-rock ensemble at the moment. Here, finally, is a band that deftly connects vintage arrangements with a modern sensibility. You can hear it in “If I Could Change Your Mind,” which sounds like a missing hit from Thriller. “Want You Back,” meanwhile, sounds like the Wilson-Phillips comeback single that never arrived. The fact that Haim is comprised of three sisters from Los Angeles who each sing and play multiple instruments—Alana is on guitars, keyboards and vocals—isn’t a gimmick: It’s an accent that makes them look and sound homespun, organic, not corporate.
The Haim ladies got their break in 2012 with the release of their Forever EP, the title track quickly racking up millions of YouTube views. They released the dazzling, platinum-selling Days Are Gone album a year later, and in 2017 they brought out another full-length, the richly produced and obviously superior Something to Tell You. The Haim sisters are also best friends, and when it comes to songwriting and recording, they share credit and space. It’s something many people don’t realize, since middle sister Danielle—guitar, vocals—stands center stage and kicks off most songs in front of the microphone.
“With songwriting, we’re just three goofballs in a room, sorting out our feelings and emotions,” says baby sis Alana, 26, during a phone chat with Vegas Seven. “The best thing about writing with my sisters is that we’re [about] three years apart. They’ve already gone through everything I’m going through, and I’m reminding them of everything they had to overcome. Este [bass, vocals] is the pioneer who Danielle and I look up to. Ultimately, the music and lyrics are a collaboration of experiences.”
It’s tempting to downplay the emotions in Haim’s songs. After all, the band’s staccato melodies make you think the sisters are more craft-focused than concerned with spilling their guts. But Alana makes it clear: The lyrics in their songs are inspired by what they’ve gone through individually. The agony of heartbreak is expressed perfectly in “Night So Long”: Then I say goodbye to love once more / No shadow darkening the door / Until your memory is gone / The night, slow, long.
“We’re very much emotionally based,” she confirms. “Of course, it’s no secret we’ve played instruments since we were little kids and that we’re obsessed with music and playing it live. Some instances are hard to go through and then really hard to write about. I hope when people listen to our music, they feel something.”
Still, there’s an intense level of craft that goes into composing and recording each tune. Haim seem to treat classic artists as their own category or style. In other words, Haim display a vast, encyclopedic knowledge of music, which explains why the band appeals across generations, from millennials to baby boomers. Their sound is new, alluring and, at the same time, achingly familiar.
“During my formative years, I listened to classic rock, so it’s a subconscious thing,” Alana says. “All those songs we grew up with come back to take us on our own journey of writing songs. We’ve always been up-front with the fact that we love the music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. My first concert was the Eagles, and when I saw Joe Walsh play ‘Life’s Been Good,’ I knew I wanted that. It was a turning point.”
From the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be any ego-tripping in Haim. But are they secretly working on respective solo albums, like KISS did back in 1978?
“No, none of us are going solo KISS!” Alana insists. “Well, I mean, never say never. I used to say I’d never cut my hair, but then I cut it super-short the other day. I can comfortably report to you that there really are no egos. If my song doesn’t work and my sisters say it’s stupid, I’m not going to lock myself in a room and cry about it. That said, we’re not the Partridge Family. Sure, we argue sometimes.”
Alana’s sisters are a comfort to her. She doesn’t feel she has to prove herself to them because of how supportive they are.
“Artists need to prove themselves to themselves only,” she advises. “You have one life, so take it by the horns, take it as far as you can go. Being in a band is like being on a roller-coaster. Keep learning and make everything you do count.”
Alana doesn’t care to talk politics. But she’s completely open to talking about how she and her sisters don’t stand for unequal treatment.
“We’re more comfortable expressing how we feel now than when we started. We don’t accept shitty treatment. We don’t want better treatment, just the same.”
Finally, I can’t help but ask if Haim ever feel a sense of competition with other on-the-rise sibling rock acts, like the Lemon Twigs.
“There’s room for all of us,” she says, laughing. “We’ve never been competitive. We all need to make a lot of good music and produce a lot of great art now more than ever. We hope people have a good time when they see us, because I know when I go to a show, I just want to escape.”
Haim performs April 13 at Pearl Concert Theater.