Los Angeles siblings Haim emerged as one of the hottest new bands of last year with a sound that makes them one of Laneway's sunniest prospects. Tom Lamont caught them on tour.

The northern summer, for the band of the summer, drew to a close in a cramped dressing room in Amsterdam.

The four members of Haim - Danielle, Este and Alana Haim, long-haired sisters from Los Angeles who play pointy, 80s-indebted pop-rock with drummer Dash Hutton - gathered around a computer, killing time before the final show of their European tour. They were reading about themselves online.

"What's happened? What's happened?" asked Danielle, 24, while Este, 27, scanned the screen. Alana, hanging back, speculated darkly. "It seems there's a chance," the 21-year-old told me, "I might be pregnant."

Many in their position would have been on the internet poring over reviews and write-ups and think-pieces - all the commentary that's out there in record of an exceptional few months for this breaking band. In June, Haim played Glastonbury to acclaim, three times: once on the Park stage, twice on the Pyramid stage, the second time as guests of Bobby Gillespie and Primal Scream. In July, the Twitter-steering website Buzzfeed declared their boisterous single The Wire "the best rock song of the summer". In August, their debut album Days Are Gone still some weeks off, the New Yorker marvelled at Haim becoming "everyone's favourite band in America".


Personally, I'd have called up that last one for a few hundred re-reads. But Haim, in Amsterdam with time on their hands, chose to immerse themselves in fiction. "Fan fiction," Este explained. "There are chapters and chapters of it!" said Alana. "There's a whole subculture of this stuff." Much of it was about the boy band One Direction, though Haim had recently earned an ongoing serial of their own. In the last instalment, things had become steamy between Alana and One Direction's Liam; now everyone anxiously awaited the results of a pregnancy test. "When we found this on Facebook," said Este, "it was like, Hanukkah."

Habitually dressed in leather and lace, these Jewish Californians play irresistible guitar music with Danielle, the dark-browed middle sibling, in the lead as chief guitarist and vocalist. She studs her lyrics with percussive "Hahs!" and "Huhs!" layering in rhythm where there'd normally be just melody ("Rhythm is the foundation of everything we do"). Taller, blonder Este plays bass, "adding the weird special sauce that goes on to make it funky". The tousled Alana handles keys, rhythm guitar, miscellaneous percussion - anything that's needed. This is the lot of the youngest.

Their sound has not quite united critics - was this "west coast rock layered with R&B" or a "winning update of 80s US mainstream pop"? - but it was liked enough for Haim to be named the BBC's Sound of 2013 in January. Industry peers have put up noisy support, too, the Arctic Monkeys mooting a collaboration, the xx, Florence Welch, Katy Perry and Ryan Adams announcing themselves fans. "I'm like the fourth Haim sister," said Angel Haze, the Detroit rapper.

Pondering all this encouragement, Alana said: "We're just happy they know how to pronounce our name." People tend to say Hame, which is wrong, or Hime, which will do. The girls say it the proper Israeli way (their father is from Jaffa) with a second-syllable hop at the end, High-im. It's the Hebrew word for life, which, when you spend some time with them, feels appropriate.

Their parents, Donna and Moti Haim, raised the sisters in a suburb of LA called Studio City. In her youth Donna sang and played guitar in coffee shops. Moti, who'd moved from Israel to California to play semi-professional football, was a keen drummer. Once Alana was old enough to hold up a cowbell, the family formed a covers band. "Our dad would be like, 'Do you have homework? Okay then, let's go jam in the living room'."

Donna sang and Moti drummed. Alana graduated up the percussion tree and then to piano. Danielle was the lead guitarist and Este - struggling to keep up with her younger sister in their guitar lessons - was persuaded to switch to the bass. "My dad showed me a video of Tina Weymouth playing bass in Talking Heads. I thought she was pretty, so I agreed." They called themselves Rockenhaim. It was an idea, the girls insist, that came to Moti in a dream.

Some kudos, here, should go to the youth of Studio City, because the Haims weren't teased or bullied about any of this. Danielle: "I always thought it was cool that we were in a band with our parents." Este: "Everyone at school was super supportive. It was something different, I guess."

Around 2007, Rockenhaim slimmed their line-up to sisters only, their name to Haim, added Dash on drums, and played a first show for about 80 people. This would be Haim's best-attended gig for a while. The sisters got used to playing around LA to crowds of 20, 10, three. "In general," Moti once said, "we had to beg people to come."

Este was studying for a music degree in 2009 when Danielle was asked to play backing guitar for singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis. At a New York gig with Lewis, she was spotted by the Strokes' founder Julian Casablancas, then looking to staff a band for his solo work. Danielle called her sister at college. Este: "I dropped the phone. I was like, my sister's going on tour with Julian Casablancas? Why am I here studying?' That really lit a fire up my ass, to make Haim happen."

Este was chairing her university's events committee at the time. "Trying to settle on a figure that didn't look too shady," she booked Haim to play on campus. "We got $1000. So thank you very much, Este Haim." They spent the money following Casablancas on tour - all of them, Danielle, Este, Alana, even Moti, who drove. Every night, before Danielle played in Casablancas' band, Haim opened the show.

The former Strokes member gave them advice. "Julian told us: disappear, come back in a year with stronger songs and hit the ground running." They've done just that.

Who: Haim
Where: Laneway, Monday, January 27
When: Mysterex (main) stage, 8pm

- TimeOut / Observer