For the most part, the Haim sisters have been experiencing quarantine like the rest of us. Some days are better than others, but most of them consist of a ton of Zoom and FaceTime calls to check in on each other and the rest of their family.
“I think the last conversation I had with my mom, she forgot her Apple ID,” recalls Alana Haim, the youngest sister. “Like even for me it's hard to figure out my password, but I remember my Apple ID. Not only did she forget her username, she forgot what email she used, so that was a whole process, getting the email, and then she forgot her password. I think it took me two days. I was like, ‘I need a break, I need to eat something.’”
Of course, most of us weren't preparing to release a new album, which comes up as I point out that at least now that their mother is logged in she’ll be able to stream it. “I haven't even gotten to that part yet, an Apple Music or a Spotify subscription,” Alana adds. “That's gonna [take] another day of figuring out.” (Este, the eldest sister, suggests they send her a cassette tape instead.)
Este, Danielle, and Alana appear in three different boxes of our mid-June Zoom call. Despite what their tight-knit relationship may lead you to assume, they each live separately (“Like five minutes away from each other”) in Los Angeles. Normally during a promotional cycle they’d be together, but the pandemic shut that down back in March as they embarked on a concert tour in delis across America––yes, delis. It was an homage to the trio’s first-ever show as a band at Canter’s Deli in L.A., but the tour barely reached its second date in Washington D.C. before they were forced to return home.
It was chiefly unfortunate as they wrote their new album, Women in Music, Pt. III, with the intention of touring it. “That was our biggest goal for this record,” says Alana. “It’s so heartbreaking, but I know at some point we’re gonna tour. We have to tour.”
Following the tour cancellation, the girls chose to self-isolate from each other for a month and a half, during which the only in-person interaction they had was when Alana “dropped some stuff off” at Este’s house through a window. “Torture. It was literal torture,” Este deadpans.
During their time apart, the album’s original April release date was pushed to August, but as the pandemic proved its staying power they settled on a late-June release. At that point, they finally reunited in their parent’s backyard to film the video for “I Know Alone,” the lyrics for which (“Been a couple days since I’ve been out”) have since taken on unintentional meaning.
Promoting a record from home is a beast in itself, but by mid-May the band was getting the hang of it. They had begun hosting weekly Zoom dance classes with fans to teach the choreography from their music videos for “Want You Back,” “I Know Alone,” “Little of Your Love,” and “If I Could Change Your Mind.” But as the lattermost virtual event approached, protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement emerged across America in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police.
Suddenly, promoting an album became less important, and dance classes were put on hold indefinitely. Calls to action in support of the movement flooded the band’s social media in lieu of regularly scheduled album advertisements. The girls hit the streets of L.A. to protest immediately––even Este, who is immunocompromised due to Type 1 diabetes.
“Everything on TV was like, if you’re diabetic you’re fucked for COVID,” she says. “And then when all of this was going down I knew that I needed to be out there regardless of what it was gonna do to my health, and so we all went.”
“If we didn’t go I would have regretted it for the rest of my life,” Alana exclaims. “We needed to show up.”
The release of Women in Music, Pt. III comes at a bit of a chaotic time, but following the back-and-forth of locking in a date, Haim decided it needed to come out. The sisters describe it as their “most personal record” to date.
For Danielle, creating it was especially therapeutic. Prior to the release of the band’s last record Something to Tell You in 2017, her boyfriend and close collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Not only did caring for him delay the album, but she didn’t talk about the situation in interviews––it wasn’t her story to tell. Any associated emotions were bottled up until the band returned home from a world tour. She then sunk into a depression that didn’t let up until she started seeing a therapist, which conveniently coincided with the start of the new album’s writing process.
“Doing therapy while working on the album, I felt like it was double therapy in a way,” she confesses. “I do feel like I've worked through a lot of my shit for the last two years, and it feels exciting to let people in on what we've been dealing with...especially our fans.”
Healing is a theme that runs throughout the record, most directly on the candid “I’ve Been Down,” which Danielle describes as a “cry for help,” specifically on the hook: “I’ve been down, can you help me out?”
“Even though it sounds so simple it struck a chord with me, 'cause it took me a minute to seek help even though I was not feeling well,” she says of the lyric. “I also think it takes a lot of strength to look at yourself in the mirror and be like, ‘Bitch, okay, get your shit together.’”
Perhaps the most vulnerable moment on the album comes in the opening verse of “Man From the Magazine,” which references an extremely sexist moment Este faced during an interview the band gave on their first trip to the UK. They had just finished performing a set, during which she donned the signature elastic facial expressions she’s known to make when passionately shredding her bass guitar onstage. Este recalls that in the midst of their chat, the male journalist asked her, “I really enjoyed your set tonight, but I’m curious, do you make the same faces onstage that you make in bed?”
At the time she laughed it off uncomfortably, but assures me that if she were asked the same question today her response would be simple: “Go fuck yourself.”
In giving the new album its tongue-in-cheek title, the band has successfully warded off the dreaded “What’s it like to be women in music?” interview question. Unfortunately, some male music journalists who are wildly unprepared to write about these three badass women still end up with the job.
“Even the other day we were doing an interview, and it was a male journalist,” Este explains. “He was like, ‘I want to ask you about your song ‘3AM,’’ and I was like ‘Great, love! Let's talk about it.’ And he was like, ‘The bass line is incredible, you know? Who played it?’ And I was concerned, 'cause I was like, ‘Oh shit, was there a discrepancy on the credits?’ He was like, ‘Oh, I haven't seen the credits.’” (For the record, I was sent very detailed album credits by Haim’s team prior to our interview.)
In that moment Danielle and Alana immediately came to their sister’s defense. They informed the journalist that they’re a band, and Este is the bass player. If there’s bass in a Haim song, Este played it. Feeling insecure however, Este even offered to send him a video of their Glastonbury set––during which she went so hard on her bass on an empty stomach that she left the stage, passed out, and came back to finish the set.
It’s a shame that with successful albums, sold-out tours, and even a Grammy nomination under their belt, they still have to prove their excellence as musicians. Thankfully, the new record proves itself, and the Haim sisters are fortunate enough that if another journalist disrespects one of them, there’s two more sisters right there to stick up for her.
Este agrees: “We’re lucky in that sense. We are a motherfucking wolf pack.”