We Talked To HAIM About Growing Up And Getting It Right On ‘Women In Music Pt. III’

"I look back at 'Days Are Gone' and it really feels like we had no idea what the fuck we were doing."

It was impossible for HAIM to escape comparison early in their career, with early single ‘Forever’ being held against the light of acts such as Fleetwood Mac, the Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks), and even Destiny’s Child. But if the three sisters from Los Angeles have proven anything since, it’s that they defy pigeonholing.

“We’ve always felt genreless and have always been inspired by so many different kinds of music. But on this record we’re really not scared of any type of music. It’s the most genreless thing we’ve done,” explains Alana Haim over a Zoom call in late May.

They’re chatting with Music Junkee from their separate houses in LA’s San Fernando Valley, but they could just as well be in the same room, with quips and jokes pinballing between them. It’s a slightly chaotic, and very fun, experience.

HAIM’s new album Women In Music Pt. III was due for release earlier this month, but its release was delayed by the pandemonium caused by COVID-19. It’s been a long time coming, with singles from the band dropping ad hoc over the last two years.

They announced the rejigged album date with a video for single ‘I Know Alone’, a song which has taken on a different meaning in the light of 2020.

“I feel like everyone in the world has kind of started to settle into this weird new normal quarantine life. It’s what’s happening right now, but we had this body of work that we’d been working on for so long and had been having so much fun releasing things,” says Alana, her sisters nodding in agreement.

“Really this quarantine has made us have to learn, it’s made us break out and be more creative and try to figure out how to do it at this time.”

“We made this album with a spontaneous feeling. When we were recording all the songs it felt more spontaneous than our other albums,” Danielle adds, one of her few interjections throughout the fifteen minute interview. “So when everything happened at first it felt like it wouldn’t be right to release something, but as we took it day by day we started to feel like ‘people need music. Let’s just do it’.

Having spent most of their lives tucked in each other’s pockets, whether at home or on tour, suddenly being isolated away from each other was a strange learning curve.

“Your mood is constantly up and down. There’s some days where I’m like ‘Ok. I’m fine. I’m here. I’m present.’ Then there’s some days when I’m running around my house naked screaming ‘When will this be over. I just want it to be over!’ So really it’s just up and down,” admits Alana.

“When I go to a concert I’m so happy. So to be able to do that again… The amount of joy that’s gonna come after this. I know we’re all sacrificing and it sucks, but I really do feel like when it’s all over we’re just gonna wanna fucking party and be around each other. It’s gonna be the summer of love.”

That restless energy is channeled into Women In Music Pt. III, recorded and produced with longtime collaborators Ariel Retchshaid and Rostam Batmanglij.

“This is by far our most confident record, and by far our most personal record,” says Alana. “I look back at Days Are Gone and it really feels like we had no idea what the fuck we were doing. We were really just flying by the seat of our pants.

“This record really feels like a graduation. We’ve never been more confident in our lives, we’ve never been more confident in recording. I’ve been proud of all our records, but there’s something about this one that I have this overwhelming sensation of being so proud and happy.”

It’s also their most experimental album yet — as Music Junkee contributor Richard S. He notes in his review, the trio have effectively ‘blown up’ their established formula. It’s also, easily, their most personal record to date.

“There were so many songs on this record that came very spontaneously. With ‘Summer Girl’, it was our first song back and we kinda needed to just rip the bandaid off. Coming back and putting out new music is always fucking terrifying,” says Alana, when asked how their recording process has changed in the past decade.

“We were working on it until we turned it in, then it was out, and the video was out. We’d never done that before at all. That vibe of writing a song, recording it, and then just putting it out was so freeing. It gave us so much freedom to do whatever the fuck we want…If it was sounding good and feeling good we were like ‘Let’s go with it.’”

“We’ve always been fucking confident, we’ve always been fucking sassy. I don’t think that’s changed, but I do think it’s gotten stronger.”

Este jumps in: “Are you ever gonna say no to anything again? Like that’s how I feel. I will never say no to anything again.”

“Ten years ago I was 18, which is so crazy,” says Alana, before Danielle reminds her she was still in high school at the time.

“I really do think we’ve grown into incredibly confident women. We’ve learnt so much on the road, I mean I’ve definitely grown up in the past ten years,” Alana continues.

“I’d fucking hope so,” laughs Este. “I think — and I could be speaking out of turn here — I think we’ve always been fucking confident, we’ve always been fucking sassy. I don’t think that’s changed, but I do think it’s gotten stronger.”

HAIM’s Women In Music Pt. III is out now via Universal Music Australia. 

Patrick Campbell is a writer and DJ based in Melbourne. Follow them on Twitter.