“We need to go swimming — it’s been the whole fucking summer, and I haven’t gone swimming once,” HAIM bassist Este Haim says.
Growing up in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, Haim and her two younger sisters, Danielle and Alana, would head to a local pool or Venice Beach as often as possible to enjoy some swimming and sunbathing. Of course, the downside of spending the summer touring the world is that the Haim sisters have what Este describes as “swimming pool blue balls,” and have even resorted to hunting down fans who can provide a body of water. “It’s become a thing where at every show I’ve played, in the middle of songs, I’ve been like, ‘Who has a pool?'”
A noticeable lack of swim time is possibly the only trouble plaguing HAIM as the indie-pop trio prepares to release “Days Are Gone,” its debut album due Sept. 30 on Columbia. Nearly half of the wiry, big-hearted tunes that make up the album’s 11-song track list have been previously released (and critically lauded) as singles during the past 18 months, as HAIM has established itself as a can’t-miss live act through tours on multiple continents. On the strength of those songs, as well as current radio offering “The Wire” — ironically, a song that sounds custom-made for pool party playlists — “Days Are Gone” has quickly morphed into one Columbia’s bigger fall releases.
Este admits that she doubted the band was ever going to release a proper full-length. As kids, the sisters gigged in Los Angeles as a family band called Rockinhaim with their parents, performing classic rock covers at local fairs, before forming their own collective in 2006 and booking dozens of shows in the Los Angeles area. While Este was studying music at the University of California in Los Angeles in 2009, Danielle was invited to join Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas to play guitar on his solo tour. Eventually, HAIM was added to the tour as an opening act, with Danielle pulling double duty each night with her own group and Casablancas’ band.
“He sat with us and talked to us about the band and what we saw ourselves doing,” says Este — who left UCLA to join the tour — of the Strokes singer. “He was like, ‘You need to stop playing L.A. You guys have played every venue 700 times, and you have to basically pay for your friends to come to your shows.’ Julian told us that maybe we should concentrate on writing more songs.”
After the tour, HAIM locked itself in Danielle’s Venice Beach house for a full year and wrote a wealth of new material. The trio also recruited Jon Lieberberg as a manager in 2011. Lieberberg, a former Live Nation executive who joined the Roc Nation management team earlier this year, helped pair HAIM with Swedish producer Ludwig Goransson, who helmed the group’s official debut single, “Forever.” HAIM also worked with James Ford, half of U.K. electronic group Simian Mobile Disco, as well as Ariel Rechtshaid, who has recently produced songs for alt-pop artists like Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira.
HAIM’s three-song single, “Forever,” was released in early 2012, and following the trio’s string of performances at South by Southwest (SXSW) last year, the group began speaking to major and indie labels. Eventually the act inked a deal with Columbia in the United States, Polydor and Universal in the United Kingdom and Universal Music Germany for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The Columbia signing was followed by the release of another single, “Don’t Save Me,” last October, and HAIM supported Florence & the Machine on their U.K. tour last December. According to Columbia senior VP Scott Greer, HAIM’s debut album was originally due last June but the group continued working on the record and delayed the release. The move proved fortuitous, as performances at summer festivals like Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and Lollapalooza helped the group gain momentum in front of previously unfamiliar audiences.
Greer also points out that HAIM’s success can also be attributed to organic endorsements from major artists. Katy Perry posted a link to the “Forever” video on Twitter last November, while Pharrell Williams raved about the group’s March 16 show at SXSW. The same holds true for HAIM’s touring opportunities: “They were hand-picked by Mumford & Sons, and by Rihanna, and by Vampire Weekend and by Florence & the Machine,” Greer says of some of the acts that HAIM has been asked to open for during the past year.
“Days Are Gone” will be bolstered by campaigns with Spotify, Vevo and iTunes. “The Wire” was recently named iTunes’ Single of the Week, and Greer says longtime HAIM fans will be able to get “Days Are Gone” at a discount using the Complete My Album feature. Meanwhile, a North American headlining trek that runs through the end of October will be followed by a supporting spot on Phoenix’s European tour in November.
“I really can’t believe that this is happening,” Este says. “To do all this as a family with my sisters, too — that was kind of the maniacal idea when we began: ‘If we were in a band together, we’d get to tour together and see the world together.’ That’s the best thing ever, right?”