HAIM Says Dance If You Want To

The sisters of HAIM discuss their love for the Hanson brothers, how touring can affect your health, and their deep connection to Canter’s Deli.

Open 24 hours, just south of the Sunset Strip, Canter’s Deli is an iconic landmark in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles that has been slinging noshable Reubens, fresh baked goods, and homemade matzo ball soup since the 30s. The Jewish deli has been frequented by many celebs over the years, from Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley to Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. 

Most recently, Canter’s classic interior was immortalized by the three sisters of the pop-rock trio HAIM as the location to shoot the cover art for their new album, Women in Music Pt. III (WIMPIII for short). But for California-natives Alana, Danielle, and Este Haim, Canter’s Deli is more than just a trendy eatery or a backdrop for a photoshoot; it’s where they performed for the very first time back in 2000. 

Chatting with the sisters, where they are all dialled in from their respective homes in L.A, Este dishes that Canter’s is also where she met Taylor Hanson of the pop trio Hanson, with whom she shares a birthday. It was the early 2000s when she spotted him and approached his table, driver’s license in hand. “I did the whole thing, like, ‘Hi Taylor, so sorry to interrupt your dinner, but you’re in a band of three brothers; I’m in a band with my two sisters. You’re born on March 14; I was born on March 14. Your band is called Hanson; my band is called HAIM. This is so cosmic we’re meeting this way.’” Her mom told her to calm down, but the memory remains a fond one for Este. 

Forever Stans, HAIM even dressed up as MMMBop-era Hanson last Halloween. They love the band of brothers and don’t mind drawing any similarities. “I think we’re probably closer to the Jonas Brothers. Our band has one diabetic member and so does theirs,” Este jokes. 

The trio are in high spirits, fresh off the release of their music video for “Don’t Wanna,” which features what fans are calling their “most ambitious walking to date.” Over the years, their choreography, much like Este’s bass face, has found its way into many memes due to the outrageous struts and moves the band often showcases in their music videos. Chatter of it runs rampant among the band’s fanbase, so much so that they’ve been offering dance tutorials via Zoom throughout quarantine to teach TikTok aficionados the HAIM way. “I’m just not a good dancer at all,” Alana laughs. “But we were all quarantined sitting on the couch and were like, ‘what would be a fun way to get us off the couch, talk to our fans, teach them something that’s fun?’ Maybe give them like an hour of just, you know, dance.”

“When the muse decides to come down and bless us with inspiration, I don’t think there’s any other feeling quite like that.” – Danielle Haim

HAIM’S WIMPIII album shows off their large range of influences and impeccable sense of humour. The album title is derived from a dream of Danielle’s, which stuck as a lighthearted joke around an annoying question often posed to them as a band: “So… what’s it like to be a woman in music?” “Pointedly describing the new album as their most personal to date, WIMPIII crosses a range of genres, from 90s R&B to 70s folk-rock in the key of Joni Mitchell and wavy electronica over distorted guitar riffs, drum machines, and their classic soaring vocal harmonies. 

HAIM pride themselves as songwriters and treat making music as a muscle to workout every day. They’ve self-produced their records dating back to their first in 2013, and WIMPIII sounds crisp and buttery as ever. Danielle tells us she often begins tracks in Garageband, and her partner, Ariel Rechtshaid, then co-produces them. Rechtshaid’s bout with cancer while making the band’s previous album, Something To Tell You, influenced some of the album’s darkest and brightest lyrical focal points for Danielle.

“When the muse decides to come down and bless us with inspiration, I don’t think there’s any other feeling quite like that,” she says. According to the eldest sister, her favourite song ideas hit unexpectedly. Yet the three achieve their greatest results when making a collective, conscious effort at songwriting. “That’s where we have found that we’re the most prolific, and the speed at which we write songs is quicker—if you can just sit down every day and work.”  

The best feeling according to Este is performing, but it takes a severe toll on her physically. “The wear and tear that happens as a Type 1 diabetic when you’re constantly traveling, and the time differences and how that affects insulin sensitivity, and your blood sugars. I never really took it into account because I was having so much fun touring, I wasn’t thinking about what it was doing to my body and my brain. And it’s hard; it’s a huge dichotomy. The second that someone says we can book a show, I’m there.” But she does stress that this time around, the new mantra is “health is wealth.”  

Still, the current imposed isolation we’re all perpetually in can mimic feelings of depression, a frequent subject throughout the album, markedly on the tracks “Now I’m In It” and “I Know Alone.” Este reflects, “I think all three of us were running away from our problems and touring was a perfect vehicle for that. We could believe that we left everything we were feeling and dealing with in L.A. once we went on tour, but we quickly realized your problems are waiting for you when you come back.”  

“I think all three of us were running away from our problems and touring was a perfect vehicle for that.” – Este Haim

To mark the occasion of HAIM’s third and long-awaited record, the band returned to their mainstay Canter’s Deli for the livestream of their album release show. It served as a pinnacle of the Deli Tours at the sacred locale where they took their first musical steps. Over the course of their broadcast they rocked out and smacked lips between songs over celebratory tequila shots amid the room’s pastrami-filled aroma.

The band used the livestream to raise money and awareness for the Bail Project and their recent merch sales went to support Black Trans Femmes in the Arts and Sound Girls, who provide women with a space and the resources to learn about audio engineering. It’s important to the group that they help encourage women to learn about these careers. Giving back and uplifting other artists is what they’ve always done, as far back as they remember playing concerts with their parents. “We weren’t allowed to do shows where we got paid. It had to be for charity,” Este says of their younger years. 

“Live music in itself is healing though,” she continues. “Having the connection of the audience when you play, there’s an element of community and connectivity that happens and that is therapeutic.” 

Women in Music Pt. III is available now via Columbia Records.