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Haim Wants to Prove That Vintage Vibes Feel Just Fine Now

While their vintage style made them fashion-world favorites (there are Pinterest boards devoted solely to their hair), their music bridged the mainstream — one song was featured in a Target commercial — and the realm of painstakingly made, retro indie-rock. Soon they were opening for, and befriending, Taylor Swift, and receiving gifts of jewelry from Stevie Nicks, who anointed them as part of her sisterhood.


The group Rockenhaim in 2001 with, foreground from left, Alana, Danielle, Donna (their mother) and Este, with Moti (their father) on drums.

With a sophomore album, “Something to Tell You,” out July 7, Haim is aiming to show that it belongs there. Next to the pop goddesses who shuffle through songwriting teams and the hip-hop and E.D.M. that dominates streaming services like Spotify, the group’s organic guitar-bass-drums-keys sound is anachronistic, and proudly so.

After nearly four years of worldwide touring, “we really felt on fire as a band,” Danielle said. She’s 28 and the lead vocalist and guitarist; Este, 31, is the bassist; and Alana, 25, plays keyboards, guitar and percussion (she’s nicknamed both Baby Haim and Merlin). When making the record, Danielle said, they wanted “a live, raw sound” that showed off their songwriting, which owes debts to Prince and Fleetwood Mac, Chaka Khan and the Eagles, ’60s girl groups and ’90s R&B but is unmistakably the product of this sibling trinity.

“Each song has the same theme in three different perspectives, from three different women in three different parts of their lives,” Alana said. “This whole thing is 100 percent us. We wrote every word, every —— ”

“Melody,” Danielle concluded, as Este nodded in unison.

You can see their process in the lo-fi video for “Right Now,” shot by Paul Thomas Anderson. In dusky lighting, the trio is alone in a studio, Danielle at the piano. “Gave you my love, you gave me nothing,” she begins, and Este joins in for the chorus — “Now you’re saying you need me, right now” — then comes Alana, with the guitar peals, a counterpoint to the singer’s plaintiveness. It ends with Alana and Este pounding a syncopated rhythm on the drums; the chorus has grown less needy and more defiant.

Haim – “Right Now” (Live) Video by HaimVEVO

There was a similar evolution in the studio, said Ariel Rechtshaid, their producer, who also worked on “Days Are Gone.” That debut was developed over their years as an unknown band gigging around Los Angeles, but “Something to Tell You” came together in the moment, in sessions that started when they returned to their childhood home in the San Fernando Valley. Before they left to tour, they had all still been living there, with their parents. They have separate places now, nearby.

Mr. Rechtshaid, who has worked with artists from Adele to Usher, was impressed by Haim’s early shows, before it was even signed. “I had never seen anything like that onstage before — the really unique synergy between the family members, but then also the level of shredding-ness,” he said. (Between the first and second Haim albums, he and Danielle began dating.)

“They really came to music from a very deep place,” he added. “It just came in their DNA since birth.”

That’s thanks to their parents, who started their daughters’ musical education early: their mother, Donna, an art teacher turned real estate agent, taught them guitar, after their father, Moti, a real estate agent and former professional soccer player in his native Israel, started them on drums. “We still have three drum sets set up in our living room,” Donna Haim said in a phone interview. When the two youngest were still elementary-school age, Mr. Haim came up with the idea to start Rockenhaim, a family band that played covers of classics like “Mustang Sally.” Their first gig was at Canter’s, the famed Los Angeles deli, where they were paid in matzo ball soup (a “win-win!” according to Este and Alana).

They played at street fairs and charity events, never for money; at home, they pretended to be the Spice Girls (two Sportys, and Este was Ginger) and dissected the classic rock songs and disco numbers their parents listened to. “That’s how we figured out how to write music,” Alana said.

“And that’s how we learned how to jam, too,” Este added. In conversation, Alana is the most voluble and profane, Danielle the most precise and serious-minded and Este the most likely to throw on a funny voice. She also is prone to break into what’s known as “bass face,” a series of gloriously contorted expressions when she’s performing — but so, her sisters protested, do they, when they play their instruments. And it’s true: The finale of their recent set at Glastonbury was a maelstrom of weird grimaces and whirling, gold-tipped locks as they drummed in unison. And they’re effortlessly in sync in other ways, too.

“They can break out into three-part harmony truly naturally,” said Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, who produced two tracks on “Something to Tell You.” “They don’t think about it. If one of them is singing something, they’ll arrange the parts just off the top of their heads, and I hadn’t really witnessed that from anyone that I’d worked with.”

While recording “Something to Tell You,” they met every day in studios — four for the drum parts alone. Each space was from a different era, which translated onto the album. At Vox Recording, which dates to the 1930s, “it’s just linoleum floors, so it sounds very live,” Danielle said. “We recorded with one mike in the back of the room.” Sunset Sound had “more of a ’70s, tight wood sound. You can really hear the warmth of the drums.”


The Haim sisters at Alana’s home in Los Angeles. The scarf on the piano is a gift from Stevie Nicks.

Elizabeth Weinberg for The New York Times

Out of the studio, they split for what Alana called “me time.” She bakes; Danielle cooks; Este goes to the movies solo. Conflicts happen, but rarely, Mr. Rechtshaid said. “When they’re making music, they really become one-third of the same person,” he said. “There was never a point when Danielle and I were feeling different ways about the music and Alana and Este would get my back. With Haim, it’s them against me, or all of us together, harmoniously.”

(Though their songs are primarily about relationships, the sisters declined to speak in any detail about theirs. Mr. Rechtshaid said only that in production, he and Danielle are two equally obsessive artists, and if anything, “it’s sometimes hard to turn that part off and go back to being a normal couple.”)

In the Spotify studio, where they were cutting “Want You Back” with their keyboard player, Tommy King, and touring drummer, Jody Giachello, and “Night So Long,” a hymn-like Danielle solo, they geeked out over the vintage instruments and revealed the origins of their moves in the “Want You Back” video — “Mom dance, it’s the coolest,” Danielle said.

HAIM – Want You Back (Official Video) Video by HaimVEVO

She brought rippling emotion to every take of her Spotify vocals, then went to the control booth to instruct the engineer. “I think the snare doesn’t have to be that meaty,” she said. “It needs to be more snappy.” (Later, she replaced Mr. Giachello altogether, with a drum machine.)

“I’m kind of at that point where I know what I want, and I’m going to go out and get it,” she’d said earlier.

It was a hard-won attitude. Though Haim has been a professional band for over a decade, it still has to face the sexism rampant in the music industry. At a recent radio station visit, Alana recounted with an eye roll, she was told she didn’t have to put headphones on because, the D.J. said, “I know you don’t want to mess up your hair.”


From left, Alana, Danielle and Este performing in 2016.

Gary Miller/FilmMagic, via Getty Images

And then there are the countless clubs and green rooms that weren’t built with women in mind. “The amount of times I’ve had to pee in a urinal!” Alana said, cursing.

But, she continued, “Right now it really does feel like there’s this thing happening where I feel more confident than ever being in a band with women.”

“The more that girls start playing music, just going out there and not giving a [expletive] what other people say,” she added, using salty language, “that’s when everything is going to change.”

That self-assured vibe comes through in their own music, like in “Ready for You,” a bouncy, synthy come-on to a onetime lover.

“It stemmed from this drum beat and these chords that felt very immediate,” Danielle said, singing them. “At that point, we were just so confident in the record. This song is about knowing what you want ——”

“And going after it,” Este said, “and not being apologetic about it.”

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