Haim Is Pop’s Most Brilliant New Cover Band

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Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 26 2013 7:49 PM

Haim Is Pop’s Most Brilliant New Cover Band

Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim
From left, sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim, of Haim.

Photo by Bella Howard

This week, the three sisters in the rock band Haim are all over the Internet with their cover of Miley Cyrus’ new No. 1 single, “Wrecking Ball.” While the original is famous mostly for its naked, sledgehammer-licking video, Haim’s stripped-down and steadily-building version, which features a strong live vocal performance from Este Haim, is a good reminder that the song is powerful all on its own.

Forrest Wickman Forrest Wickman

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

But while it’s gotten them by far the most attention, “Wrecking Ball” is far from the first song HAIM has made their own. Growing up, sisters and bandmates Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim played with their parents Donna and Moti in a cover band, the adorably named Rockinhaim. The idea of a family cover band might sound hokey, but the sisters took it seriously, and rehearsed constantly, and these days they can really play. Here’s Haim and their parents tearing through the Mack Rice R&B standard “Mustang Sally”:

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All that practice performing cover songs (not to mention Este’s ethnomusicology degree, and Daniel’s time playing guitar for Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas) has served the band well. On the road and in the studio for radio interviews, they frequently reach into their repertoire of cover songs. Last month they laid down a gorgeous version of Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough” for the Australian radio series Like a Version, with lead singer and guitarist Danielle Haim on the mic:

One of their favorite bands to cover is Fleetwood Mac, a strong influence on the band. For one of their earlier visits to BBC Radio 1, in December 2012, they covered the band’s 1969 single “Oh Well,” with youngest sister Alana handling the vocal:

And for the Fleetwood Mac tribute compilation Just Tell Me That You Want Me, released a few months earlier in 2012, they put their own spin on the band’s 1982 hit “Hold Me”:

Part of their knack for covers is their ear for forgotten or underappreciated gems. For Sirius XMU in February, they covered The Strokes’ 2006 B-side “You Only Live Once,” a subdued, melancholy, early version of the song that evolved into the First Impressions of Earth track “You Only Live Once”:

Of course, HAIM have some great songs of their own, too. You can stream their debut album, Days Are Gone (which is out on Tuesday), for free over at NPR. Just as great as many of the songs they cover is the Haim-written single, “The Wire.”

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