Interview: Haim Speak on Working With Kid Cudi and A$AP Rocky, Their Debut Album, and Mama Haim

By Eric Diep

Last year, Haim made Complex’s 20 new bands to watch for and it’s easy to see why. The Los Angeles band gained popularity at an early age by covering oldies as a family band called Rockinhaim. As they hit adulthood, Este (25), Danielle (23) and Alana Haim (21) ventured off to write songs of their own that have become favorites in the indie-pop scene and beyond. For a band that only has one official EP to their name, it feels like they’ve already blown up.

Haim is gaining another reputation for putting on awesome shows. Combine that with their successful singles—the sun-kissed “Forever” and the moody “Falling”—and the sisters have all the right ingredients to make it big. We recently sat down with Haim to chat about everything from being a must-see act at festivals to their widely praised duet with Kid Cudi on Indicud. We also discuss other hip-hop artists they like to work with, and the status of their long-awaited debut album.

Haim is always listed as a must-see act at festivals. How does that feel?
Danielle: It’s nice to know that people want to see us live. We consider ourselves kind of a live band. We have the most fun live. It’s awesome.

Alana: I think it’s actually crazy. It doesn’t really go in my brain. It’s like, ‘Oh, cool. Everyone is on this list.’ But I don’t realize how prestigious it is. I’m just like, ‘Why am I on this list? What is this list? Is this list a joke?’ I’m always like, ‘Who are these people? Why do they care?’ I’m still, like, so confused. We spent our whole lives playing music and playing live. When we started the band, all we said was we are a live band first and foremost.

Este: We have the most fun.

Do you guys miss playing with your parents?
Alana: I do. They miss it too. My parents are here, actually, and they are always waiting in the wings for us to be like, ‘C’mon, Mom and Dad. Get on stage!’

Danielle: Just throw on a guitar, grab a couple of drumsticks.

Alana: I mean, yeah. That’s where we learned how to play. My parents, without them we wouldn’t be here today. Really, when we started Rockinhaim we were so young. We were on stage since when we were really, really young. So, it kind of helped us get our stage presence, play live and not be afraid.

Este: We just assumed every family played music other.

Alana: We sometimes play [with] my parents. Sometimes, my parents come on stage on summer shows. My 21st birthday, my mom and dad came on stage; they did “Mustang Sally” in Brooklyn at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Everyone freaks out for my parents. They love my parents. I think they love my parents more than they love us.

Danielle: They’re good is the thing. They are really good musicians.

Alana: My mom is the funniest performer. She like literally takes it to Beyonce status. When my mom holds the mic, it’s like, back up band! Mama Haim does what she was made to do.

Este: Donna and the Haims.

How do you differ from one another?
Alana: We are pretty much the same, just like different ages, in different stages of our lives. I feel like how Este and Danielle were when they were 21. At least I am lucky because I got to see Danielle and Este grow up. I was like, ‘Not gonna do that.’

Este: Learned from all of our mistakes.

Alana: Gonna do that, not gonna do that. Not gonna make that mistake. But, we are pretty chill. I mean, Este is the one that stage dives. That’s her new thing.

There have been a couple of hip-hop artists reaching out to you lately. What is your reaction to that?
Danielle: We love hip-hop.

Alana: Yeah, I feel like every person that’s reached out, we are not scared of anything. We love collaborating with people. Every one that has reached out, we have been fans of. When Cudi reached out, we were like, ‘Oh my god. Fuck yeah! That’s amazing!’ We literally met up with him in his studio in L.A. Literally, the day we were about to go on tour. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We thought we were gonna hang out and just vibe.

Este: I just wanted to hang out.

Alana: And he was like, ‘I’ve been trying to do this song for a really long time.’

Danielle: It was a Hit-Boy track, and we fucking love Hit-Boy. “Paris” is my shit.

Alana: He was like, ‘It’s never worked out.’ Every single person is sitting on it.

Danielle: He was like, ‘Kanye tried to write on this and then we tried it. It just never worked out.’ It was supposed to be for Watch The Throne.

Alana: And we were like, ‘Why the fuck do you want us to do it?’

Danielle: I was like, “Oh my god.”

Este: Alright, no pressure!

Danielle: They played it and we were like, ‘Holy shit!’ This shit is hot.

Este: It was just that track. We spent the day and wrote over it. We did all of it [in] one day.

Danielle: He had to hand in the record [Indicud] the next week. He wanted the song to be on the record, but he didn’t know how. But he had the hook, so we just fucked around on verses. It turned out that we were basically the full song. He didn’t really rap on it. It was awesome.

What was it like working with Cudi?
Alana: It was so much fun.

Danielle: His energy was [like], ‘Go in there and do your thing.’ He didn’t even like [say anything.] He was like, ‘Do it.’ He was just so supportive.

Este: He has the best vibe in the world.

Danielle: It’s weird. We spend months and months on records and shit. We spend a lot of time in the studio perfecting it. This took a day?

Alana: It wasn’t even a day. It was four hours.

Danielle: We did it and that was it. It was kind of out of our hands. We thought it was so dope, we were like, ‘Fuck yeah!’

Alana: We didn’t even know that it was going to be on the record or not. Literally, one day we saw the tracklisting got leaked. It was like, “‘Red Eye” featuring Haim.’ We were like, ‘Whoa.’

Who came up with the concept of “Red Eye?”
Danielle: He had the hook: ‘I’m floating through the night on a red eye, red eye.’

Alana: But, he was like, ‘Honestly, red eye can mean so many different things.’ He didn’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, you are on a plane or you are on crazy drugs.’ You think of what red eye is and that’s [what it is.]

Este: All of us were going through different things at the time.

Alana: And he was the most supportive person. We get really scared in the studio because we didn’t know his vibe. We didn’t know if he was going to like our vibe. We are so different. Everything we did he was like, ‘Go in the booth!’ He would dance around when we were singing.

Este: We also ordered so much food. We feasted so hard. It was the best thing.

You mentioned that other rappers have reached out. Who else have you worked with?
Este: We sang on [A$AP Rocky’s] “LVL.”

Alana: We sang at the very end. [All begin singing 'All you need is love'] That story was crazy because we met A$AP at a festival like a year ago.

Danielle: Cudi was headlining.

Alana: We didn’t know Cudi yet. We were doing an interview and A$AP kind of walked up. We ended up doing the interview together. We ended up running around the festival together. And he gave us his number, but—

Este: No, no, no. A$AP Rocky wanted us to quit Haim and be his backing band.

Alana: He was like, ‘How do y’all feel about your band?’

Este: How serious are you about Haim?

Alana: We are actually kind of serious, but…

Este: In our minds, we actually went through the process.

Alana: We had like a Haim huddle. You guys, we really like our music.

Este: Should we be A$AP’s backing band? That’s how big of a fan we were. We were just kind of like, ‘Yeah, man. We kind of have to do this.’

Alana: We lost touch for a couple of months. We were in New York. We ended up at the same party. He was like, ‘I am going to the studio right now. Do you guys want to come?’

Danielle: It was like 3’o clock in the morning. We were like, ‘Alright, let’s go.’

Alana: We were in the studio and he literally cleared everyone out of the studio. It was us and him. ‘I want you guys to sing on this track. We need girl voices,’ and it kind of just happened. It’s so funny because it’s literally out of our hands. We have no idea what’s going to happen. We get sent the track months later—

Danielle: Which is so not our style. Usually, we are hands on about everything. A$AP and Cudi were super supportive and we trusted them.

Who are some of your dream collaborations?
Alana: Prince—no big deal.

Danielle: Probably Kanye.

Este: I love Drake.

Alana: Basically any hip-hop artist and Prince. Beyoncé!

Este: I also want to work with Trinidad James.

Alana: I fucking love Trinidad James! He is so fucking dope.

You guys are working on your debut album slated for this summer. Why is it important for you to take your time with it?
Danielle: I think everything is so new to us. We weren’t ready for all of the attention and we are perfectionists. We are not going to release anything if we are not one hundred thirty thousand percent on. So it’s like hard. We also gotta do promo. We have to do live shit. We got to open for people. We love touring. It’s taking a little time, but we spent so much time on our recordings. It’ll get better. It’s our first record. We want it to be good.

Alana: Believe me, at this point, [I] just [want to] fucking put it out already. I want to put it out. We didn’t want to put something out that we weren’t 100 percent excited about. If we were going to put it out, we are going to tour it for at least a year.

Este: In the meantime, come see us live.