When planning their children’s careers, few parents had the foresight of Israeli-born Los Angeleno Mordechai Haim.
Seventeen years ago — when daughters Este, Danielle and Alana were 10, 7 and 4, respectively — he set them on an unusual path.
“It was a pretty wacky idea. My dad definitely woke up from a dream one day and saw us playing music together, and it turned into the craziest experience,” Alana Haim, now 21, says of their family band Rockinhaim, with mom Donna on guitar.
Without their folks, the sisters, who play the Treasure Island Music Festival on Sunday, eventually rechristened themselves HAIM (rhymes with chime), and issued their Wilson Phillips-bubbly album “Days Are Gone,” which debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. chart and No. 6 in the U.S.
“My dad was obsessed with Sheila E, and he envisioned me, at 4 years old, being the new Sheila E, so he bought me timbales,” says Alana Haim, dubbed Merlin by her sisters for her mastery of percussion, keyboards and guitar.
“The only problem was, the timbales stand wasn’t made for a 4-year-old, so I was literally playing them with my hands stretched over my head. I just whacked them, and it sounded great. So I definitely had rhythm.”
As kids, Rockinhaim was a hoot. But when the youngest Haim hit 13, the cool quotient was ebbing. Her toughest gig: A Sherman Oaks street fair, when she looked up to see the five most popular girls from her middle school stalking straight toward her. She froze, but her classmates got into the groove.
“I was already known as the tall chick,” she says. “For some reason, my parents gave birth to giraffes. But my folks are super-awesome, so it’s hard to feel embarrassed around them. They might even be cooler than I am, which is crazy!”
Rockinhaim didn’t last forever. Bassist Este Haim went off to college, and Danielle Haim became tour guitarist for Jenny Lewis, Cee-Lo Green and Julian Casablancas.
The Strokes frontman urged HAIM — which reconvened in 2006 — to concentrate on original material.
“So we started writing songs, like every day, for a year,” Haim says, which led to their first buzz-generating EP, “Forever.” Two of the group’s 1980s-sounding pop confections, “Forever” and “Go Slow,” are included on “Days,” along with concert favorites such as “Falling” and “The Wire.”
After so many years singing together, the girls remain close. “We’ve always been best friends,” Haim says. “Este would even pick me up from school and just mad-dog anyone that was giving me s***. So my sisters are my wolf pack!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Treasure Island Music Festival
When: 3:35 to 4:15 p.m. Sunday