Sex, Bono and depression: How Haim embraced chaos and made their most revealing album yet

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The U2 frontman didn't end up contributing to "Summer Girl," Batmanglij said, but his enthusiastic response inspired the group to finish it, which then triggered a dozen other songs to "start spilling out," as Rechtshaid put it. They included "Los Angeles," a scrappy ska tune about speeding aimlessly down Crescent Heights Boulevard, and the strutting "I've Been Down," in which Danielle sings, "I'm waking up at night/ Tick-tock killing time/ A little moonlight coming through the blinds/ The love of my life sleeping by my side/ But I'm still down."

"What she's saying in that song -- I mean, I know her so well, so I'm like, 'Wow, you nailed it,'" said Rechtshaid, who's now cancer-free. "I've never heard Danielle connect so well lyrically."

When widespread stay-at-home orders came down in March, Haim pushed the album from an initial April 24 release to later in the summer before finally settling on the date next month. "It feels like we've gotten into a little bit of the new normal with the quarantine," Danielle said. "And we really want it to be out for the summer." With concerts off the table, they've been building toward the release with remote performances on late-night TV and weekly dance classes the sisters are teaching on Zoom.

And as they did on "Something to Tell You," they recruited director Paul Thomas Anderson -- a fellow native of the San Fernando Valley -- to make a series of music videos for tracks from "Women in Music Pt. III." Among them are "Summer Girl," which follows the sisters as they stroll through several LA landmarks, including Canter's and the New Beverly Cinema; together with the music that so vividly expresses an Angeleno's crisis of direction, the clip can remind you of Issa Rae's "Insecure."

Yet to see it now is also to feel a pang for a city in shutdown. Asked how they think the pandemic might affect their hometown in the long term, the Haim sisters said they feared that members of the creative middle class -- the session musicians and lighting designers that they grew up around in Valley Village -- would no longer be able to afford to live here.

Their parents, when they weren't leading their daughters in classic rock and soul covers, sold real estate in the Valley. "But their clients weren't rock stars," Danielle said. "It was, like, the drummer from Dishwalla."


As kids, the sisters were supported at home as they pursued music; Danielle and Este briefly played in a pre-fab pop group called the Valli Girls that scored a spot on the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" soundtrack. The three formed Haim around 2007, but the band took a few years to get going as Este studied ethnomusicology at UCLA and Danielle toured as a drummer with Julian Casablancas and Jenny Lewis. (She still freelances on occasion, turning up last year on albums by Vampire Weekend and Clairo.)

Today the women say they run Haim as a strict democracy. "We always check with each other on everything -- even Instagram posts," Danielle said.

"I definitely come up with the really funny captions," Este said. "That's what I bring to the band."

Yet Danielle, once known as the trio's most retiring member, seems to be stepping into a newly forward role as the band's frontwoman: Several times in our talk, Este and Alana deferred to their sister in answering a question, and on the album Danielle owns her sexuality in a way that feels fresh for her.


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