LOS ANGELES — Their debut album entered the chart this month at No. 6. In England the record sold more copies than the latest by Justin Timberlake. Reviews have been nearly uniformly ecstatic, as has praise from fellow artists such as Katy Perry and Mumford & Sons.
To the uninitiated, Haim’s success might resemble the overnight variety.
But the L.A. group — built around a trio of sisters — played its first show in 2007. Before that, the siblings performed in a band with their parents, doing Beatles and Prince covers at school functions and church fairs.
“It was fun to do,” said bassist Este Haim, 27, “and it seemed normal to us.”
As a pop sensation, though, Haim is anything but the norm. The band — which also includes singer-guitarist Danielle, 24, and guitarist-keyboardist Alana, 21 — has an appealingly ungroomed look and a lived-in sound that forgoes the super-polished dance beats of Top 40 radio.
Sitting backstage at L.A.’s Fonda Theatre on a recent afternoon, the women were dressed in dark vintage clothes, their long hair hanging loose over their shoulders — more Joni Mitchell than Miley Cyrus. They were discussing their not-so-distant days growing up in the San Fernando Valley, including Este’s job at the Sherman Oaks Galleria.
“Alana would be at the mall with her friends, and she’d come by and I’d give them free French fries and soup,” said the bassist, who worked at Cheesecake Factory in the shopping center. “Then her friends started coming separately — they cut out the middleman.”
“They didn’t need me anymore,” Alana agreed with a laugh. “Way harsh.”
Back home again
If the sisters seemed nostalgic, perhaps it was because they were home for the first time in months. Haim — the name rhymes with “lime” — has been on the road in the United States and Europe for the better part of 2013. (The group is rounded out by an unrelated drummer, Dash Hutton.) Last week the band’s tour stopped in L.A. for a sold-out concert that served as a kind of hometown celebration of its hit debut, “Days Are Gone.”
A classically minded pop-rock record framed with clever postmodern production out of hip-hop and R&B, “Days Are Gone” pulls from any number of instantly recognizable sources — Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar — yet never really sounds like any of them.
Ariel Rechtshaid, who co-produced the bulk of the album with the band, said they were determined to create a record distinct from those by Haim’s indie-scene peers as well as from the group’s own live show, which emphasizes a rawer style.
“I caught them in the middle of a storm, when all the attention was creating real demand for the record,” said the producer, who’s also worked with Vampire Weekend and No Doubt. “But I wanted to be sure not to paint them into a corner. ‘Three girls that rock from the Valley’ — that’s easy to categorize, easy to write about. We were striving for something that doesn’t set up those boundaries.”