The three sisters in Los Angeles’s Haim have only performed two headlining shows in the Bay Area, but San Francisco holds special significance to them.
Bassist Este (28) briefly held a job working for Ghirardelli Chocolate at the famous square — “I wouldn’t be here right now if I continued working there,” she deadpans. “The diabetic at the chocolate factory, I mean, come on.” For guitarist-keyboardist Alana (22), it was the first place their parents, Moti and Donna, would let her travel with friends. “We were, like, 16, so we couldn’t really do anything,” Alana says. “So we just ran around Haight-Ashbury because it was the only place we knew of.” And for lead vocalist-guitarist Danielle (25), it was the city where, after numerous tries, she would find bars that served her and her sisters alcohol illegally.
“It’s so different than L.A.; it’s so walkable,” Danielle said. “You can walk all over the city going shopping and having amazing food.”
The sisters (and drummer Dash Hutton, who completes the band on-stage), perform August 9th at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. They’ve also enjoyed previous success in San Francisco. Their two headlining shows at the Fillmore in April sold out within hours of being announced.
“I thought it was an April Fool’s joke; it was very, very surreal,” Este says. She and her sisters sit on two beds in their hotel, prior to the first of the two April shows. “Especially so far in advance,” Danielle chips in. “I’m not that quick with (buying) concert tickets.”
Before the April shows, there was a strong Treasure Island Music Festival performance last fall. And Danielle’s first taste of music success came as a guitarist for Julian Casablancas of the Strokes and another Outside Lands performer, Jenny Lewis.
“It’s pretty crazy, you know?” Danielle says. “Five years ago…I think it was our first show with Jenny Lewis. We started here — two nights at the Fillmore. We stayed at the same hotel.”
Even 15 months ago, Haim were just your average successful indie band, blending ‘70s and ‘80s AM radio California pop with ‘90s R&B and today’s hip hop.
They had one EP to their name, and a growing list of admirers. Then reviews started coming in for full-length debut Days Are Gone (released September 2013), and the TV appearances, the Spin cover, the Target ad, the World Cup uniform shoot, and the features in fashion magazines. Este describes it in two words: “Very surreal.”
Their story is widely known. The sisters got their start in a musical San Fernando Valley family. Their parents recruited them at a young age to play in Rockinhaim, a family band that played classic rock and Americana covers on the local fair circuit — the Eagles, Tina Turner, Van Morrison…
“I can’t listen to any more Santana songs ever again. I can’t,” Este says.
In 2006, the sisters started writing their own songs, incorporating pop and R&B. For five years, they played local pubs and bars. Este, who was attending UCLA, entered the band in a competition to open for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
“We were so excited,” Alana laughs. “‘Oh my God, we’re going to open for Edward Sharpe.’ And then, when we got the sheet, because there was another opener … and for us, ‘You have 10 minutes so you can only play two songs.’”
Still, they got stuck playing the local bar circuit, the same venues every month, trying to talk their friends into going to prevent an empty dance floor. It took Danielle landing the gigs playing with Jenny Lewis and Casablancas to realize that there was a world outside of the Los Angeles fishbowl.
“I remember my parents…saying, ‘Wow, this is like a real show,” Danielle recalls. Este states it more succinctly: “It was a moment for us as sisters…when we saw Danielle play with Jenny at the Hollywood Bowl where we were, just, like, ‘This is the craziest shit.”
Alana: “We had a long string of Jenny’s concerts (where) she must have thought we were fucking crazy. Me and Este were the loudest people in the crowd….We definitely didn’t keep our cool, at all.”
Being able to start their first American tour in San Francisco, where Danielle first got a taste of success, felt right to the Haim sisters, Este concludes. And the tour essentially concludes in San Francisco as well (only three dates remain after their slot at Outside Lands, and the band intends on taking a break at that point).
The sisters are excited, too, about the food and the atmosphere that their friends have been raving about for several years, as well as their friends who are performing, such as the Arctic Monkeys and the Killers.
“Even the bands talk about how amazing Outside Lands is,” Alana says. “I was talking to the dudes from Chromeo … and they said Outside Lands was one of their favorite festivals to ever play.”
Fans shouldn’t count out Haim from appearing at the stages of other acts as well, given that Jenny Lewis is performing, as is Tom Petty. Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers played organ on a track on Days Are Gone. The sisters plan to attend the festival all three days.
“We’re pretty spry; we’re punters,” Este says. “We like to immerse ourselves.” Adds Alana: “I will kill for a spot in the front row (for Petty). I literally will shed tears.”