The Untold Truth Of Haim

When the band Haim burst on the scene in 2012, the music world was not quite prepared for what these women rockers had to offer. Haim — pronounced like the Hebrew toast l'chaim — is the last name of the three Los Angeles-born sisters who make up the band: eldest Este, middle child Danielle, and youngest Alana. 

All three women play multiple instruments and sing in the band. Their first album, Days Are Gone, debuted at number 6 on the Billboard 200 charts, and at #1 in the U.K., beating out Justin Timberlake for the top spot (per Yahoo). Thanks to a decision to delay the album but release several early singles, by the time the album came out in September 2013, Billboard called it "one of 2013's most anticipated debuts."

Once they played Saturday Night Live in 2014 — despite Este's high school teacher chastising her otherwise — the band was nigh unstoppable. A Grammy nomination for Best New Artist followed in 2015, and they've since collaborated with the likes of Taylor Swift, who is also a good friend. They released their second studio album, Something to Tell You, in 2017, and their third album, Women in Music Pt. III, dropped in June 2020, is up for a Grammy for Album of the Year on March 14, 2021 — which happens to be Este's 35th birthday.

As we prepare for the Grammys, let's take a closer look at this group of rockers and learn a few things.

The sisters were in at least two groups before Haim

As if Haim being a sister act was not enough to prove that music runs in their family, the similarity doesn't stop there. Music runs in their blood, and the sisters got the rock gene from their parents. Their first band was a cover band with mom and dad called Rockinhaim.

Father Mordechai, a former Israeli soccer player, and mother Donna, an art teacher, were both musicians, and Mordechai encouraged his daughters to study music as an academic discipline from an early age. They taught the girls percussion very young — Alana was only 4 when Rockinhaim played its first gig at the famous Canter's Deli in Los Angeles (per NPR). According to WatchMojo, Dad had hoped the family would become a "Partridge Family-style ensemble," and the group played covers of classic rock staples like the Beatles, Billy Joel, and the Eagles, transposing songs they heard off the radio. But Rockinhaim became Haim when the three girls struck out on their own and started writing their own material.

Before Haim officially formed, Danielle and Este seemed to follow in Alanis Morissette's shoes, or pulled a Robin Sparkles: They were in a bubble-gum pop band called Valli Girls. The short-lived group was on fire, with a song on the soundtrack of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and writing the theme song, "It's a Hair Thing," for the animated television show Trollz. But the sisters left after only a few months.

Este Haim studied music in college

Este Haim really listened when her father encouraged his girls to study music academically. The eldest sister attended UCLA in 2009 and 2010 before playing music with her sisters. She graduated in 2010 with a degree in ethnomusicology, the academic discipline that studies music's cultural and social aspects and how they interact. Este focused on Bulgarian folk music as well as Brazilian percussion, including conga and carnival drumming. She even sang in a Bulgarian women's choir (per Yahoo). Super cool, and these different styles clearly influenced the music the sisters play.

The outgoing Este, who was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 14, clearly doesn't let the disease slow her down. She's a cut-up, with a reputation for saying wild things on stage. In a concert in Brighton, England, The Guardian recounted how Este told the crowd about a texting mishap from her ex-boyfriend where he presumably requested something, ahem, specific in the bedroom, when what he actually wrote was, "I want a nap."

Este also amazingly completed her ethnomusicology degree, which would usually take five years, in only two. She must have had other things she wanted to do.

Danielle Haim had a thriving music career before forming Haim

After leaving the band Valli Girls, which she was in with her sister Este, the introverted Danielle Haim moved quickly through the music industry, making a name for herself as a session musician. She played drums for Rilo Kiley's former lead singer Jenny Lewis, until the Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas invited her to join his solo tour, playing guitar and percussion. She learned a ton about music from him, telling the London Evening Standard that Casablancas was "the most focused person I've ever seen," and they rehearsed every day for two months. "He's really driven, so that was an eye-opening experience for me."

Danielle also auditioned for Cee-Lo Green's Scarlet Fever, his all-female backup group, but she only played one performance with him on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and then turned down his lucrative offer (via The Telegraph). She enjoyed touring, but as she told the Evening Standard, "I always left the stage thinking, 'I really wish these people were here to see me and my sisters.'"

With Este's graduation from UCLA and Alana finishing high school all happening around the same time, the time was right for the three sisters to form their own band. They eventually opened for Casablancas, while Danielle was still a member of his band, and he talked with them about their future. Este told Billboard, "Julian told us that maybe we should concentrate on writing more songs." They did so, and really focused in on their sound.

Youngest Alana Haim is always borrowing her sister's clothes

The baby of the family, Alana Haim, primarily plays keyboard for the band, as well as guitar and percussion. She is also outgoing, like Este but unlike the introverted Danielle, and told The Guardian that she is "the best of both worlds," because she can learn from each of her two older sisters' differing personalities. "I've looked up to both of them my whole life, so I can see what they do wrong and what they do right. Now I never make mistakes."

She also told TV and radio host Ryan Seacrest that she is always borrowing Danielle's clothing. When Haim visited On Air with Ryan Seacrest on KISS FM in Los Angeles, where the three are from, Seacrest created a game he called "What HAIM is it," where he asked the sisters questions about how they would react in certain hypothetical situations.

As From the Grapevine detailed, Seacrest asked Alana whose closet she would raid if she needed clothes for a last-minute date, and Alana answered Danielle, "hands down." She went on to say, "Basically my whole life I've been stealing Danielle's clothes." "Both of us," Este chimed in, admitting to the theft too. But Alana has Este beat: "Alana Baby-Haim fun fact: I'm always wearing one article of Danielle's clothing at all times."

The segment is also a perfect example of how introverted Danielle is compared to her sisters, as she doesn't say a word the whole time.

The Haim sisters are pros, but they've seen their share of sexism

The three sisters are expert musicians, who were trained on the drums starting at 4 years old. There's little that's easier or more fun than banging on things at a young age, so drums were a perfect first instrument, as they told NPR's Ask Me Another. Their father Mordechai instilled his love of drumming into them and played drums for their family band Rockinhaim. Yet despite their expert percussion playing, Haim, often colloquially called "three sisters and a mister," includes a hired drummer, Dash Hutton, as "the mister."

The trio has also dealt with more than their fair share of sexism as women in rock music. From having to pass fake-girl musician tests in music stores before being allowed to see the fancy guitars, to male journalists asking who really played that bass solo, Este, Danielle, and Alana have seen it all. They even wrote about an experience with a male journalist, who had the nerve to ask Este if she makes her strange faces off-stage as well as on, in their song "Man from the Magazine."

They told NPR "we should've just left the interview," but they were so "stunned" that they didn't know how to respond. The good thing, Este said, is "that happened and it will never happen again... [and] now I know how to answer. And I have Danielle and Alana to step in and say 'next question.'" Sisters to the end, they know how to protect each other.