Alana Haim & Sasha Spielberg Discuss Their Favorite Sophomore Records
The two friends and musicians sat down to talk moms, misheard lyrics, and feeling seen by Say Anything’s Max Bemis.
Alana Haim and Sasha Spielberg are more than just best friends and fellow musicians — they’re also business partners. They’re the two charming hosts of their candid joint podcast Free Period, on which they explore their pre-teen years, reminiscing about braces, acne, boys, and bat mitzvahs alongside special guests Catherine Cohen, Kate Berlant, and more. On a recent April morning, just days after wrapping Season 2, the singer-songwriters reunited on a Zoom with NYLON to have a candid conversation — not for Free Period, as they repeatedly had to remind themselves — but to celebrate Spielberg’s latest album release under her musical moniker, Buzzy Lee. Titled ‘Internal Affairs’, out now, the album is a nine-track document about the inner workings of falling in love, and swirls with Spielberg’s distinctive voice and quirky sonic machinations. It’s also, importantly, her sophomore record, and serves as the launching point for Haim and Spielberg’s subsequent discussion about their all-time favorite sophomore albums, from Kate Bush’s ‘Lionheart’ to Say Anything’s ‘00s cult classic, ‘Is A Real Boy.’
Sasha Spielberg: Hi, Alana.
Alana Haim: Hi, Sasha.
Sasha: So today we're not on a podcast.
Alana: We're not on a podcast. We're not on Free Period.
Sasha: I think we should just continue talking like we are because this is the only way we know how to record ourselves.
Sasha: Okay, so we're going to talk about sophomore albums.
Alana: Yes, the sophomore albums that have shaped our adolescence and then adulthood.
Sasha: I'm on my sophomore album, and there is a classic sophomore slump. Had this in college, and—
Alana: Oh, really, in college?
Sasha: Yeah. It's called sophomore slump.
Alana: In college too? I guess when I was a sophomore in high school, I wasn't feeling myself either…
Sasha: It's horrible because you're not a freshman. Again, it's not my debut album, so it's not as exciting. It's a funny time to release a record.
Alana: But also, a lot of my favorite records were sophomore albums.
Sasha: And this is what we're going to talk about.
Alana: Let's jump in.
Sasha: I'm going to start with The Bends by Radiohead. This is the album that got me into Radiohead, surprisingly, not OK Computer. I was obsessed with The Bends because ... what are those things where you rip-off a movie, not a mockumentary, but a spoof?
Alana: A spoof.
Sasha: So I was doing a spoof of Thirteen, the movie. And Theo [Spielberg] was editing it on iMovie and he knew how to add music to each of the songs. Theo basically edited, like, me being 13 and screaming at my mom like, "Get out, get out!"
Alana: No bra, no panties.
Sasha: No bra, no panties. And he put “Bones” by Radiohead on one of the pivotal moments in the spoof. And I was like, "What the hell is this song?" And he was like, "Oh, Radiohead." That was my introduction, and I was obsessed with that album. And then OK Computer came after that. And then Pablo Honey was, which was the first. I was a huge Radiohead fan, and that's from The Bends.
Alana: Then wasn't it like an email or a screen name?
Sasha: My Livejournal was Fake Plastic Love, which is a Radiohead lyric from “Fake Plastic Trees.” So The Bends is the best.
Alana: And also Sasha was cool. Amazing first pick.
Alana: I'm feeling very anxious about my picks. I'm not feeling anxious. I'm feeling good about it. My first pick would probably be Prince's sophomore album entitled Prince. I feel like Theo got you into Radiohead, Este got me into Prince. Este, my oldest sister, is I think the biggest Prince fan. Maybe not the biggest, but one of the biggest Prince fans of all time. I remember her showing me this album, and “I Want to Be Your Lover” is on it. How I remember listening to it is, you remember the scene in Austin Powers where it's the Fem-bots and they're so mind blown by what’s happening? I think that happened when I listened to “I Want to Be Your Lover.” Literally, it starts with a snare hit and I swear to God, I knocked into... It was like my mind exploded. And this album was so... I mean, Este had a cover, a poster of this album on her wall.
Sasha: It's such a good album cover. Can you believe that's his second album?
Alana: I know, it's unfair. And there's also incredible songs on this album.
Sasha: The last song, “It's Going to Be Lonely,” is one of my all-time favorite songs.
Alana: “Bambi” is so good. That was my intro to Prince, and it was because of Este.
Sasha: There we go. Kate Bush for me happened later in my high school. I really learned about Kate Bush when I was 17 through Theo, my brother, again. And it was so fascinating to me. “Wuthering Heights” was the only song I knew, and I was just blown away by that song. Had never heard any of her other songs until I was 20 years old. And Lionheart is her second album. Though The Kick Inside might be my favorite, Lionheart is a close second. Anyway, Kate Bush truly shaped me. And as someone who sings in falsetto and just kind of theatrically, and her movement and her whole being and weirdness really inspired me at the age of 20 because I was just trying to be a cool girl. And to be like, "Oh, you can be cool and be really like zip, zap, zop." That was revelatory for me.
Alana: Also, this album cover. I haven't seen this album cover in so long. What an amazing album cover. I want to be there.
Sasha: It's so good. I want to go there.
Alana: Kate, genius. Only put out amazing records. My next pick, God, talk about all these album covers, [they] are so sick.
Sasha: She painted this.
Alana: Oh, she did?
Alana: Of course she did. She's an incredible painter. We're talking about Clouds, Joni Mitchell, her second album. So many incredible songs. I got introduced to Joni by my mom — the biggest Joni Mitchell fan. And she always said, "If you have a feeling and you can't put words to it, you can't express how you're feeling, listen to Joni because she has put it into song." That was my mom's whole thing. I feel like it's so true. When you listen to something like “Both Sides Now”... There's so many amazing songs on this album, but I think “Both Sides Now” is one song that I think throughout your whole life you listen to it and it takes on a new meeting, a new meaning every time you listen to it at a different stage of life. I think it might be the most perfect song ever written.
Sasha: I agree.
Alana: And it really did birth my love of Joni. And also “Chelsea Morning…” I remember all these songs my mom would sing. My mom only had Joni Mitchell records in her CD changer in her car. The CD changer that was in her trunk, first generation CD changer.
Sasha: The usage of “Both Sides Now” in Love Actually with her deeper voice. It's like that.
Alana: When she re-released it, it was just an incredible song. And yeah, she was so young when she wrote it, and it's just… Joni puts your feelings into words.
Sasha: I love that your mom said that. I love that so much.
Alana: My mom is the best. Your mom is the best, too.
Sasha: I love my mom. Judee Sill, another person for me that I learned about probably, again, around like 19. Heart Food is her second album and her last album, and it's actually truly one of my biggest inspirations in life. “The Donor” is a nine-minute song that I cannot listen to because it is too good. You know when there's songs that you actually have to skip over because it's too much? It's just too much. It's too intense, it's too powerful. I have this a lot with Alice Coltrane, I have it with Judee Sill where it's like, "Oh, I can't even, it's too deep for me right now."
Anyway, “The Donor” is the last song on side two, and it is nine minutes, and it is one of my favorite, biggest inspirations in terms of songs. And that is Judee Sill. Genius. I know every lyric to that record, which is saying a lot because I don't know lyrics.
Sasha: Okay, next up. This one's good.
Alana: Thank you, Sasha. I love that we're hyping, hyping each other on this journey. My next pick, which was a very important album in my life, is The Writing's on the Wall by Destiny's Child. I remember going to Tower Records with my siblings and we bought this album. And we never really bought many albums back then. We got it, we needed it. And when you actually see how many hits are on this album.
Sasha: It's so crazy. We got “Bug A Boo,” “Say My Name.”
Alana: That was the first time I heard “Dark Child NaNa.” And that was the first time I had ever heard a production by Darkchild, and it was like the most incredible song. I think all of us wanted to be in that music video. It's the best music video of all time. But then we go to “Bug A Boo,” “Bills, Bills, Bills.” “Jumpin' Jumpin’.” Yeah. I knew every single word to this album.
Sasha: It's a perfect album.
Alana: It's a perfect album. And you're like, "What? This is insane." It really just changed my life. And I love it.
Sasha: My next one is Veteran by JPEGMAFIA. First of all, a dear friend, but only became a dear friend through music and making music together, because I learned of him through his sophomore album, Veteran, which is one of my favorite albums ever made. And I just am so grateful to this album for introducing me to his music. And I love when sophomore albums introduce you to someone's music and then you look back and you're like, "Oh wait, there's a whole other record that exists." Anyway, “Baby I'm Bleeding” was the first JPEG song I ever heard. And then, yeah. I mean, genius.
Alana: Everyone, go listen to it. It's incredible. I'm going to do TLC, CrazySexyCool. There's another album that changed... I can't remember if Este or Danielle brought me CrazySexyCool, but I mean, obviously I remember watching TRL and seeing the “Waterfalls” music video.
Sasha: I remember it so well.
Alana: First of all, I was like, "Technology. This is the most incredible music video." But also the song is so good and also, TLC is just incredible.
Sasha: Did you know the lyrics to “Waterfalls”? Because I never knew the lyrics. I thought it was “Jason Waterfalls.”
Alana: Who was Jason?
Sasha: First name Jason, second name Waterfalls. Don't go Jason Waterfalls.
Alana: Jason Waterfalls. Oh my God. It makes so much sense. No, but it was, “Don't go chasing waterfalls.”
Alana: And I mean, again, changed my life.
Sasha: So Alana and I so many overlaps. The biggest one being Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. That is a sophomore album. I believe it took a year and a half to make. No, even maybe more. I actually, I'm not a good historian with this stuff. It was the most expensive album ever made because it took so long.
Alana: There's also just so many tracks on this album, it's incredible.
Sasha: “The Ledge.” For me, “That's All for Everyone” is another one that I can't listen to because it's too much, and “Storms” as well. Both of those are the top two songs on this album for me and I can't even really listen to them because they make my stomach hurt.
Alana: I know.
Sasha: Every time I have a house party, which never happens anymore-
Alana: Yeah. Once a year.
Sasha Spielberg: Once every four years. I usually put this on at the end on vinyl because I'm so cool. This is transcribed. I'm saying it sarcastically.
Alana Haim: We said that in a sarcastic voice.
Sasha: So Tusk was obviously just sophomore... Oh my God.
Alana: Is it not the sophomore album? How is it the 12th? Sasha.
Sasha: Hold on.
Alana: Post-Peter Green.
Sasha: Yeah, we're talking post-Peter Green era. The band Fleetwood Mac as we know it.
Alana: After Rumours.
Sasha: After Rumours. So, it's technically their 12th, but as the newer iteration, it's their second.
Alana: Yes, new iteration, when you know Stevie and Lindsay joined after Rumours, But we also love Peter Green era.
Alana: We need to make it clear.
Sasha: All right. If you want to take this one? Do we even go there?
Alana: We could go there. I mean, so this second album ... Let me just make sure it's the second album.
Sasha: You can't trust me anymore. Alana and I were doing research and-
Alana: Let's see. Okay, it's the second album. Now I'm just feeling self-conscious. So this next album, I think my mom, again, my mom had the best music taste of all time. The first thing that I remember of this album is looking at the cover art. The album is The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
Sasha: By Bob Dylan. By Fleetwood Mac.
Alana: No, by Bob Dylan. We're losing it. By Bob Dylan. I almost said by Fleetwood Mac.
Sasha: I'm sorry.
Alana: By Bob Dylan. So Sasha knows this, not many people know this, but I think the most intimate thing you can do when you're dating somebody is hold their hand. I think that for me is like true love, and on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan is like arm-and-arm with Suze Rutolo, his girlfriend at the time. And I looked at that and I was like, "That is love." And I had never seen it so pure in my life.
Sasha: Did you own it on Vinyl or did you have vinyl?
Alana: No, I had it on CD. Again, my mom's CD changer. I had it on CD from Tower Record. But this album is so incredible because it has so many amazing songs. But I think the thing is, I had always wanted a love that wanted to walk down a snowy street with me arm-and-arm.
Sasha: That record cover made me fall in love with love, really.
Alana: And also just, I mean, not only is the record cover amazing, but it also has “Blowin' in the Wind,” which is revolutionary.
Sasha: “Girl from the North Country,” “Don't Think Twice,” “It's All Right,” “I Shall Be Free.”
Alana: Yeah. It's just has hit after hit hit, and on top of everything, it made me believe in love. So ... what can I say?
Sasha: Yeah, there you go. Should we wrap up with ...
Alana: What? Oh my God. Okay, so this one is going to be very particular to me and Sasha's friendship. Tthis is one of the first albums that me and Sasha were like, "Wait, you knew that album?"
Sasha: Every lyric. Again, I don't know lyrics, but I do know that.
Alana: The album we're talking about is ... Is a Real Boy by Say Anything. This album, I mean, it was one of those albums that when you were younger, you put it on your CD player, and you had your headphones over your hoodie. I would listen to it after middle school, and it made me feel things.
Sasha: He was an L.A. native so we felt proud. Everyone knew someone who knew Max Bemis of Say Anything. And I knew every lyric. This was me and my first real boyfriend’s album that we listened to all the time. I have videos of him dancing, I actually just found it, to “Alive With the Glory of Love.”
Alana: Oh my God. Both “Alive With The Glory Of Love,” “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too,” and “A Walk Through Hell.” “A Walk Through Hell,” that's what I thought love was. I thought that he was writing that song about me. We've had never met before, but I was like, "This is what love is. If a dude ever wrote a song like this about me, I would cry."
Sasha: A hundred percent. I had the demo version because again, peripherally, you knew Max Bemis, so people could get their hands on the demo of this entire album.
Alana: Oh yeah. I have all the demos. They're literally on my phone.
Sasha: No, me too. They're on my iTunes. So this was a pivotal record for us. And if you met someone who loved Say Anything, it was like meeting your match, astrologically. He mentions a rabbi I know in “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too.” Which, as a young Jewish gal-
Alana: I was like, "I feel seen. I feel seen. He knows what rabbis are?"
Sasha: I know. "I have one too!" So I mean, I think that's a great way to end.
Alana: And that was, I mean, just to even bring it back to Free Period, our funny podcast about seventh grade. This album was seventh grade for me. This was like, I had no idea how to get my feelings out in seventh grade, and this made me feel things.
Alana: And that's why we do our pod, and that's why we're friends.
Sasha: Exactly. I keep forgetting this is not a podcast.
Alana: This is actually in support of your beautiful sophomore album.
Sasha: Thank you. It is in honor of my sophomore album. I love you. This has been amazing. Thank you for joining me.
Alana: I love you. Thank you for having me on this. Thank you, NYLON.
Sasha: Thank you, NYLON. We love you. And goodbye.