Album of the Week: Haim, 'Women In Music Part III'

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Haim, 'Women In Music Part III'
Haim, 'Women In Music Part III' (Columbia)
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Interview: Danielle, Este, and Alana of Haim
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Titled Women In Music Part III, the third studio record from this trio of Angeleno sisters features collaborations with Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid, with Danielle Haim continuing in her role as the band's lead producer.

Women In Music Part III sees the band building on their greatest strengths, channeling the bonds of sisterhood into harmonies that disarm and soothe us in weary times.

Throughout the record, HAIM navigate heartbreak, the wobbly uncertainty of personal growth, and the vast lands of loneliness - coming together for each other, and for us. The instrumentation is full of enticing restraint, grasping listeners with sharp arrangements that stay with you even after the record has ended.

Assistant Producer Jesse Wiza connected with Danielle, Este, and Alana over Zoom from their respective homes in Los Angeles to talk about the new record. Edited for clarity and length.

Interview

So my first question, you offered a t-shirt to anyone who could guess the name of the album based on the acronym. I wanna know what were the most memorable submissions from that.

Oh my god, I'd have to look. There were some amazing ones. Yeah. Let me look. Let's see, okay, um, yeah I wish I could scroll all the way to the top because there were so many good ones. My friend Grover came up with a pretty good one. "Where is my pudding, I innocently insisted". "Walking in my pants; it is insane".

I feel that way now, whenever I put on jeans.

There were some pretty creative ones and then a lot of people got it right, which, I was very surprised.

Do you guys have anything you're irrationally wimpy about? Like for me, I can't watch shaving scenes. I'm always terrified they're gonna cut themselves and I'm a huge wimp about it.

Danielle: Oh, that's like me with needles in general. Like when I see it in a movie I truly - I have to like plug up my ears and close my eyes and turn away. I hate it.

Alana: I have an irrational fear of zombies, but not slow zombies; fast, like the running zombie. Like zombies from like, the black-and-white movies, like, I could deal with, like Night of the Living Dead or the slow arms spread, like, walking very slowly. I'm totally fine. I'm not a runner. I'm really bad at running, so when they're fast zombies I would immediately give up - immediately.

Este: I think I'm a wimp. I'm wimpy when it comes to - and it's such a big thing in Los Angeles when people are like, "Let's go for a hike." My first inclination is like, "Absolutely not. Absolutely not, sorry. Nope. Not gonna do it." So I'm wimpy when it comes to that. Everything else in my life I think I'm probably the complete antithesis to a wimp.

Nice. Well, good thing [Los Angeles] Mayor Garcetti closed down all the trails so now you don't have to worry about that.

Este: Right? I know. Thanks, Mayor Garcetti.

So I read that this title came to you in a dream, Danielle. I'm wondering, do you remember anything else from that dream?

Danielle: I just remember seeing that phrase like over and over again. I think we were like invited to like a women-in-music event maybe that day or something, so it was in my mind, but I just remember seeing it like kind of everywhere and in my dream I was like "Is this a sign?" - you know - and I kind of woke up laughing. But I think it's just a phrase that you see all time in real life and - but we just thought it was like a really funny title.

So this is your guys' third album with Ariel Rechtshaid and second with Rostam Batmanglij I'm wondering - has the producer/band collaboration morphed or changed with each album or is it more like you're getting back into the saddle with these guys?

Este: Um, well you know Danielle's also just - she's been a co-producer from the jump. I think if anything Danielle's been the through-line in all three of the processes - all three record making situations I think Danielle has been kind of the - Danielle, you can tell me if I'm speaking out of turn here, but the true, like, leader when it comes to the production of all three of our records.

Danielle: Yeah, and I think what's just so exciting about working with Ariel and Rostam - both of them strive to kind of make noises and sounds that are super unique and to me that is so exciting. I just love trying to create things that are very unique and that sound unique and mixing genres and - I mean the first time that I saw - I mean I'm like a weird - like instead of like baseball cards I feel like growing up I had like producer - like in my mind like producer cards. The kind you would have collected as a kid, like producer - like I was just super into - I was always super into - you know - like I feel like I've said this before, but like we were always obsessed with behind the music and trying to figure out how people made albums sound so unique because once we started trying to put what we thought we heard in our heads onto tape or onto the computer, um, it was really hard to - like "Wait - why doesn't this sound like how we sound like in our living room?" I didn't understand how to sonically get what we were playing onto - I say 'tape', but we weren't recording to tape at the time but - you know - on record I guess. I was always just so interested in the process and when I first heard Vampire Weekend I remember being like wow, this sounds so cool, because it sounds almost like I'm in the room, I remember the drums sounded super roomy and it sounded raw but with - you know - Rostam would always put something really cool in the mix or kind of unexpected and when I first started to research Ariel, like I said, like kind of my producer cards, it was like he did a Cass McCombs record but also did Climax with Diplo and Usher and I remember being like who? - how? - this is my dream producer, like someone who just kind of worked among a lot of different genres and we're just always really striving to get something that sounds unique and I hope that comes off on the record.

Was there anything new that you picked up between the last album and this one that you tried out in the studio this time?

Danielle: I think the drums specifically on this album are really unique, and we really tried to get great drums sounds and there's a lot of kind of open ringy snares that I was super into, and just using a lot of room mics has just kind of been - that was kind of the thing on this album.

From the tracks I've heard so far it turned out beautifully.

Haim: Thank you.

Where was this record recorded?

Danielle: We do a lot - since our first album we've recorded a lot at this studio called Vox in LA and it's a very live sounding room. It's - has kind of like linoleum floors and it's a huge open room, so it does kind of lend itself to having a very kind of live sound -

Alana: Wasn't it a radio station at one point?

Danielle: I think it was mostly for like jazz musicians - yeah, jazz - I think it was built in the '20s. We record a lot at Sunset Sound, which actually Prince used to record at a lot and that room is very different. It's like kind of almost '70s and kind of very wood. There's just like hardwood floors and it's a very warm sounding room. Vox is not like that. But, yeah, Vox - we did a lot of drums and bass; some guitar/piano, but mostly we would just kind of take everything back to our home studio and kind of mess around with it in the home studio.

So you guys grew up in the LA area, and I'm wondering how Los Angeles plays a part in the band. Does the city play a character in the band, or is it because you grew up there it's kinda stays in the background and it just comes out of you naturally?

Danielle: I think it just kind of - I think it just comes out naturally. I think that was a funny thing that we - like we realized when we released our first EP and we went kind of straight to Europe because we did SXSW in Austin and couldn't get signed, but we heard that people in the UK were kind of playing it on the radio so we went there to get signed first. But that was something that everyone kept talking about - "oh, it's so LA, it's so California," and we were like, "What?" We had no idea what that means.

Alana: No one had ever like - had like said that we were like that, I guess - I mean the long hair didn't help - but yeah, I know, I guess it just comes out naturally. I still don't really understand it, but I mean, I love where I come from. I love the Valley. I feel like we - you know - I love California, I love LA. So I'm down.

So this record pays a lot of respect to Jewish delis. I'm wondering - do you guys have a favorite order that you go to every time? And where is it? Is it Canter's? Is it somewhere else?

Alana: Well, Canter's had a whole big part of our lives because we were in a family band growing up, it started when I was like seven? We were a cover band with our parents and our first gig was at the Kibitz Room at Cantor's. That's like where we played our first gig, which was so crazy, and like we actually have talked about - like how did you let us? I was eight and I was playing a bar. They were like, "We definitely didn't know, if that was the case, like, we wouldn't have booked you guys." You have an 8-year-old in the band? Uh, but yeah I mean Cantor's is great. There's so many good delis in LA. There's Nate and Al's; there's Brent's. I feel like my go-to order - I love a Reuben. Never met a Reuben I don't like. I love a Reuben - pastrami or corned beef is the big question. I usually go for pastrami; pickles - deli pickles are a very important part of my life.n

Danielle: I love a latke. I'm like a lox and bagel gal.

So on the song "The Steps" - I had it on repeat today - it comes across to me as a miscommunication in an argument and I'm wondering what advice do you guys have for navigating a miscommunication with a loved one or a partner. For example I was on the debate team in high school and I like - if I'm really upset with someone and it's important to me that they understand, I write out my full argument, spend the night cooling down and then come back with like written out A-B-C these are my points.

Danielle: Great. That is great advice. I'm going to do that. That is genius.

Alana: I will not give you good advice. Like my advice, the thing is I hate confrontation in general and for me I think when I'm in a fight with someone this is - I don't - please don't take this advice, anyone, but like I need space so like I'll just leave and take an hour and like calm down. I think that's like textbook like what you're not supposed to do. Like what you're not supposed to do. Like I think there's like numerous essays like don't do that but it works for me. I mean I am single so I don't know if that plays a part in it but uh, I don't know. I really don't - I haven't figured it out yet. I really haven't figured it out. I'm gonna take your advice though.

If Lou Reed's team had not put their blessing on "Summer Girl," do you guys think you would've gone back and reworked it or do you think you would've just been like, "Well we can't do it?."

Danielle: No. For sure that we would've definitely went back and changed it. I think that was super important to figure out. That was like a big part of the puzzle and we're so stoked that they gave us the blessing because this - when I first kind of wrote the first part and took it to my sisters, we recognized that there was like a part that was "Do do do do do" and recognized that that was similar to Lou Reed and it wasn't until we took it to Rostam where we were like, "This part kind of reminds us of Lou Reed," and he just kinda of went full like, "Okay, well let's put some standup bass in it," and really, the song fully took shape once he put those kind of production spins on the song and it gave the song so much life. But yeah, if they would've been like "Hell no," we would've had to have gone back to the drawing board.n

Este: Or we might not even put it on. Like it could've just been a thing where like - I think them giving us the blessing of allowing us to kind of put out the song was like it kind of actually made us wanna put it out even more. So it was like a really big deal when we got that call. We were super thankful and I mean that song was really the most incredible way to start this next record cycle. It really did feel like the right way. I mean we had never cut a song faster. Like we really just - we made it and put it out and made a music video like within two weeks and it was just kinda..

Whoa.

Este: Yeah, it was crazy. We had never done that before and it kinda felt like a good omen. I feel like we had - it felt really nice.

So that means - wow - that music video - my next question was actually about Paul Thomas Anderson. How did you guys get connected with him?

Este: It's like a super crazy long story. I mean like the short version of the story, which because I don't wanna like take up like a million years - it is a very long story but the short version was my friend Asa Tacone, who's the lead singer of this amazing band Electric Gues who's funny enough gave me my first job when I was 16. It was at a party and she overheard Paul talking about this sister band from the Valley. And growing up like we repped the Valley so hard because a lot of people don't wreck the Valley because it's not cool. And it never has been cool and it probably never will be cool but I love it so much because it's where I came from. And Paul is the biggest fan of the Valley. I mean a lot of his movies are based in the Valley and have Valley stories. So he was talking about this band of sisters that were from the Valley and Asa was like "Oh, those are my friends - Haim." And he was like "You need to give them my email." And then Asa hit us up the next day and was like, "Paul Thomas Anderson wants your email," and we were like "What. Like what are you talking about?" Like that's so crazy and we ended up emailing him and going over to his house and having dinner with him and his family is so incredible. I mean his like - he really just welcomed us in almost immediately and it kinda started this working relationship and now - I mean that was - we met him at the tail end of our first record and we worked with him throughout our second record and now having it be our third record he's basically like our A&R at this point. Like he listens to everything and he listened to Summer Girl before anyone did. Like he was, I think the first person that we showed Summer Girl to and he was so excited about it and was like, "Okay, so what are you guys doing in the next couple of days?"

Danielle: We didn't even tell our label that we were doing a music video. Yeah, we just ended up doing it. We got a camera. We like ran around. Actually the opening shot is Vox studio where we recorded most of that song and he was just like let's do it and we were like okay. And I don't even think the song was fully done yet when we shot the video and it was just after the video was done it was like we should put it out and we did.

Alana: Well, also at this point it was like June. It was like the beginning of June and we had the song and we were like we should probably release this like before the end of summer. Why not - I think it came out like at the end of July.

Okay, you'll have to forgive me. I just took a class last night about writing about smell, so just - if you'll indulge me for this question - if you were to pair a scent with this record what would it be?

Alana: Oh my god - scent?

Yeah, like a smell.

Haim: Um, what? What? I don't know.

Yeah, there's no like smell that you associate with this time in your life?

Danielle: Yeah, I mean, I picture sweat and pizza I guess. I don't know. Sounds pretty much like what it smelled like in the studio while we were making it. It was just like sweat and pizza. I don't know. That's kinda gross but --

That's perfect.

Danielle: That's what came to mind.

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