As if women playing rock ’n’ roll don’t face enough stereotypes, the three sisters in Haim have an extra one to live down: They’re bona fide Valley Girls.
“People think we all talk a certain way and are not the brightest crayons in the Crayola box,” said Este Haim, the bass-playing, harmony-singing elder sibling in the familial trio, whose members hail from the San Fernando Valley outside Los Angeles.
Haim (the band, pronounced “hi-yum”) is, like, totally awesomely blowing up into one of the year’s biggest breakout groups. But you won’t catch Este, 28, or her sisters Danielle, 25, or Alana, 22, bragging about it in the vapid sort of “Valleyspeak” made famous by Frank Zappa’s daughter Moon Unit in the 1982 song “Valley Girl” and a 1983 Martha Coolidge movie of the same name.
In fact, Este — who earned an ethnomusicology degree from UCLA while waiting for her sisters to come of touring age — made a smart case for why growing up in the Valley had a positive impact on their rather dramatically changing lives.
“It was a really creative place to grow up,” she said, calling a week ago from a tour stop in Atlanta. “All our friends we grew up with were obsessive about music, and a lot of their parents played music and had instruments we could mess around on. We had mountains and snow two hours away, the desert two hours away, the beach an hour away, and amazing friends and great parents. I think it was a magical place to grow up.”
The Haim sisters haven’t seen much of home over the past year, though. They have been steadily touring since early 2013, when their single “Don’t Save Me” — a bouncy hybrid of ’80s-flavored R&B grooves and ’70s pop harmonies — hit the charts in England, where the band has made its biggest splash so far.
With a second, more glam-rocky single, “The Wire,” adding to the buzz, Haim’s debut album, “Days Are Gone,” finally came out stateside in September after an unusually long gestation.
“We used up a lot of time just experimenting and finding the right sound — a lot of trial and error,” Este explained. “Especially since it’s our first record, we didn’t want to put a finite time on making it. We wanted to be really, really proud of it is all.”
It took the group even longer to come to Minneapolis on tour. Haim will finally make its local debut Monday for a long-sold-out show at First Avenue. We apparently don’t need to remind the sisters they’re overdue to play here — and they probably don’t need to tell you why they’re excited about it.
“Honestly, when we first started looking at dates and all the venues we could play, First Avenue was very high on our list,” said Este, who remembered watching “Purple Rain” with her dad when she was only 10 or 11.
“He covered my eyes during the naughty parts. The only reason he let me watch it was because he was such a big Prince and Sheila E. fan, and he knew I’d probably get hooked. I quite vividly remember watching it and just being enamored with the performance scenes — the way the venue looked, the lights and the smoke. That was a huge influence on me.”
Dad’s and Jay Z’s influence
The Haims’ father, Mordechai, was a professional Israeli soccer player as well as a serious drummer, and both parents started their daughters on music lessons at an early age. Mordechai insisted that his daughters learn how to play drums alongside other instruments to round out their musical know-how.
“I think you can hear that our lyrics and melodies are really percussive,” Este rightfully pointed out.
The whole family performed for several years as Rockinhaim, a covers band (the sisters still play a mean, lean version of the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac hit “Oh Well”). Este and Danielle also briefly joined a preteen girl group called — get this — Valli Girls, which wound up on “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” soundtrack and some Nickelodeon shows. More recently, Danielle earned hipper credentials touring as a guitarist for Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas.
More noteworthy family connects: Haim’s “fourth member,” drummer Dash Hutton, is a son of Danny Hutton, one of Three Dog Night’s three lead singers. Said Este: “He’s been so cool to us. Just seeing him at all our L.A. shows cheering for us has meant a lot.”
And then there’s the connection with Jay Z, which Este also described as familial. His company, Roc Nation, now manages Haim.
“Yes, we have the Jay Z phone that only rings if it’s him, and it’s even diamond-encrusted,” she quipped. In truth, she added, “We’re obviously very big hip-hop fans and love Beyoncé, too, so that makes it exciting enough to be with [Roc Nation]. Even better, though, we’ve found that everyone in the company is supportive and good to work with.”
‘Is it a good song?’
Their teenybopper pasts and likeness to “MMMBop” hitmakers Hanson — three siblings, with the middle child being the lead singer — could have earned Haim an immediate dismissal in the rock world. However, both the hipster site Pitchfork.com and Rolling Stone listed “Days Are Gone” among its best albums of 2013. Locally, Haim’s singles have been played on pop outlet KDWB (101.3 FM) as well as indie public station 89.3 the Current and whatever Cities 97 is calling itself nowadays.
“I don’t think there are as clear of lines between what’s the indie, cool thing and what’s commercial pop,” Este said. “There are a lot of blurred lines, even between pop and hip-hop. I think the thing people are really paying attention to is: ‘Is it a good song?’
“For us, we really grew up listening to all kinds of music and not thinking about, ‘Oh, is this cool?’ We knew we liked a song if we wanted to sing along to it, and we like to think those are the kinds of songs we’re singing now.”