Haim Explains The Heartache And Joy Of Its New Album, Track By Track
Haim's sophomore full-length, Something To Tell You, is a straight-up relationship record at its core, with all the angst, heartache and defiance that can erupt when lives coalesce and collide — with the added complication of being in a full-time, touring and very successful band. It's an exploration through the various stages of grief, from the denial in "Nothing's Wrong" to the bargaining of "Ready For You," or the anger of "Found In Silence."
But Something To Tell You is also a record of self-empowerment and coming-of-age that finds these three sisters a little older and wiser after having spent the past five years on the road. "Este just turned 31, I just turned 28 and Alana just turned 25," says singer Danielle Haim. "It's definitely a record about growing up and figuring out your feelings, and working through different relationships."
For the album's release today on Columbia Records, we chatted with the members of Haim and asked them to share some of the stories behind the group's new songs and how they came together. The three talked about the challenges of dating men with fragile egos, betrayal, their love of '50s doo-wop and how they can turn even the darkest situations into dance songs.
"Want You Back"
"This started off as a way slower song, kind of just noodling around on the guitar with a very simple chord progression. It was more of a ballad. We started to work on it and something wasn't clicking — we knew something was good about the song but we couldn't crack it. So we shelved it. [But] I started playing it on guitar again and we had a drum machine set up through an amp, and we programmed this kick and clap pattern for the chorus, maybe 15 beats-per-minute faster, and all of a sudden it felt right.
"While [it] plays like a song about wanting someone back, it's more about me becoming more in touch with my own feelings. The whole record reflects the fact that we spent years on the road, our band that once was only in our living room was now a global, very busy thing. Learning to deal with everything [has been] both empowering and humbling. With 'Want You Back,' both themes are prevalent. It's definitely about self-reflection and growing up and realizing that there's always two sides to the coin." – Danielle Haim
"It's a sad one, definitely about a relationship falling apart and nobody wants to admit it — [the] denial of something happening right under your nose. But it's also about us being on the road ... you can't really put a finger on exactly what's wrong, but you know it has to do with distance and how it's hard to maintain a relationship when you're on the road. You just have to be mindful. It takes a little extra work, the extra five-percent effort. But if it's worth it, you work it — but my sisters and I have all figured it out I think at this point, being on the road for almost five years now. I wouldn't say we're experts. But as we grow older, we've learned what to do to maintain not just relationships but friendships, too. We're lucky, when we come home we have friends we've known since elementary school and we pick up where we left off. We're lucky we have that." – Danielle Haim
"Little Of Your Love"
"We were inspired by '50s doo-wop chord progressions and how those sounded. I think, throughout the decades, people have always harkened back to this sound, that kind of eighth-note piano 'dink-dink-dink-dink' kind of thing. Whether it's John Lennon, ELO, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers or even Outkast, we've always loved that aesthetic. Eighth-note piano over simple chord progressions and sax and talking about love.
"'Little Of Your Love' is about just jumping in headfirst and trying not to think too much or overthink, about knowing what you want and just finally being at a point in your life when you're willing to ask for it. Demand it! Ha." – Danielle Haim
"Ready For You"
"It's the antithesis of the song 'Nothing's Wrong.' I know what I want and I'm not too proud to ask for it. It's me coming back stronger, more confident and truly giving my best effort to go after what I want. The song is about that exhilarating feeling of when you can pinpoint what you're after and go for it wholeheartedly. The music reflects that feeling, and the middle eight or bridge is the euphoria of when you're face-to-face with what you're after and you're not letting it get away! There's no turning back." – Danielle Haim
"It's my favorite track on the record. There is something to be said about the timing in life, when you're in a different stage in your life where you aren't ready to be with someone. Then you have this realization: The timing in life is everything.
"I don't think me and my sisters have ever been desperate. When it comes to love we've never been desperate about anything. I think with this, it's a kind of fun wink at this love, when you look at a person and you know you're ready and you know you're growing up. We're very new to the whole love game. We're learning about how to be in love and how to love someone, and I think this song is, especially in the bridge, it's the kind of love where you can't take your mind off of and you're just happy it's in front of you. Never desperate. Never be desperate." – Este Haim
"Something To Tell You"
"This is 'Part Two' of 'Nothing's Wrong,' more of an upbeat version. It's the answer. It's more of a dance song (we think it's a dance song), [about] finding the strength to end something toxic. It feels like the end of something bad and ushering in a new era. This is partially why it felt right for the title of our album. New beginnings. It has a bit of a Reggae feel because the kick is on the two and the four." – Danielle Haim
"You Never Knew"
"Unfortunately, sometimes we've felt that our partner can't maybe deal with the fact that we're gone [on the road] all the time, and the fact that we're always working ... some men we've found can't really deal with that. This song kind of speaks to that, some experiences we've had with imbalance in relationships, loving the idea of a relationship even though the current one is wack and one-sided. You know us: Turn a dark situation into a dance song! But it's also about ego. We've unfortunately experienced men's egos... dealing with three women working, that's too much sometimes for a man to deal with." – Danielle Haim
"I've been on tour since I was 20, our very formative years. Trying to figure out who you are and being in a relationship. And it was really hard to be on the road and trying to find someone who wouldn't say, 'But you leave all the time!' I'd always get that line. 'You leave all the time.' It's hard to hear that at such a young age, to be like, 'Oh my job is so hard for someone else to accept.' But I love what I do and always thought that I'd find someone who loves what I do as much as I do. [But] that's how it should be. The person you're with should always be supportive and love what you do and be proud of what you do. It's hard to hear from the person you love that they can't love you back because you leave all the time. That's what this song is about." – Alana Haim
"Kept Me Crying"
"This one started off with the music first. We wrote it with Rostam [Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend], who also produced it. He just started playing these simple piano chords reminiscent of '50s, early rock 'n' roll. The melody just came out real quick — it was the first thing that came out of our mouths. Rostam has this awesome ability for coaxing something out of you, he's a huge cheerleader when we're writing. It's different with every song, but with Rostam we'll just start with stream-of-consciousness and record everything. With the advent of GarageBand, we started writing a lot faster six or seven years ago. You can really just mess around, and it's very easy to go back and hear what you did. It's an easier way to capture ideas." – Danielle Haim
"Found In Silence"
"It started with this marching, four-on-the-floor kick drum and the snare pattern that was constant, kind of like a train moving forward. Then it was Ariele's idea to bring in the strings. The song's about finding empowerment within yourself to move forward... the bridge is definitely us taking a step back and realizing we're human and that, even though I can move forward, when I think of what maybe transpired, it can still get me — but you can find strength in yourself and really believe in yourself and listen to how you feel." - Danielle Haim
"You don't necessarily need someone to make you feel better — and that's something else that came with age. In your 20s all you see are these [romantic comedies] and all you can think is that that's what you want. But at the end of the day, it's me, myself and I. I've come to realize I love myself. And I've had to learn that when I go to bed, I'm going to bed with Este Haim and she's great. She's a great best friend." – Este Haim
"We meant it as a [sequel] to 'Found In Silence.' Because the beats are so heavy we wanted it to be like 'you're walkin' away and you're drivin' away,' and you'll bump the car stereo with this song. It feels like a send-off. We're always learning how to deal with all these things." – Danielle Haim
"Drums are our first instrument. Our father's a drummer. So at the end of each [live] show we've done this big drum send-off. But since it's never been on an actual track, we added to the end of a song called 'Let Me Go,' and that's always been our finale, so we thought we should have this specific part on our new record. We all play percussion on the record, and we wanted a song that kind of exploded. Este came up with the tag, 'Right now, right now' and we knew we had something. From there we just built and built and built. It's just us exploring different dynamics in a song, but it was the first time I tried to make the music follow the [feeling] of the lyrics, especially in the line 'You gave me your word!' We tried to express that feeling in the music, how intense it is when you feel like someone's given you their word and the moment you realize it was bulls***. So we tried to see how the lyric can affect the music. Nico Muhly wrote the string arrangements." – Danielle Haim
"Night So Long"
"We actually wrote this one a long time ago. And it was always just this one thing, a chorus or a verse. We never really throw anything away. But it felt like maybe a chorus. Every time we came back to it we thought it needed another part. But whenever we wrote another part for it it didn't feel right. So it's almost like a hymn with one part repeated. The vocals were done in one take, an old take that I couldn't beat. So we kept it. And then it felt like the last track for the record." – Danielle Haim
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