Hudson-based Yam Haus is made up of Lars Pruitt (vocals, guitar), Seth Blum (electric guitar), Jake Felstow (drums), and Zach Beinlich (bass). While they are relatively new to the Minneapolis music scene, you might recognize Yam Haus’ name from First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2018 held on Jan. 4 or from GoFest 2018, where they had been victorious in the Local Battle of the Bands. More recently, they were announced as one of the bands lined up for Cities 97.1 Basilica Block Party this July, among other acts with local ties like Semisonic and Flora Cash.
While most bands today sign on to existing labels, Yam Haus’ debut album, Stargazer, actually inspired theirs. Their producer, Mark Heimermann, and studio owner, Jordan Erdman, created their own independent record label called Hover Coalition, which is also based in Hudson.
With the band’s album and a recently released acoustic version of it called Stargazer Sessions out, Yam Haus has been busy putting on shows in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and their sold-out show with Early Eyes and Last Import at Fine Line Café this weekend is up next. Read below to learn a little bit more about what Yam Haus is all about.
Let’s start at the beginning: Where did you guys meet and how did you start making music together?
Lars: So, we [Zach, Seth, and I] all met at high school in Hudson, Wisconsin, and we met Jake later in Minneapolis because he was attending college here. We met him in the Minneapolis music scene after we had decided the three of us wanted to be band. We didn’t have a drummer, and Jake was the guy. When Jake joined the group, it became real—that’s when we became Yam Haus.
You guys released Stargazer last June. Were there specific themes you had in mind when you hit the studio?
Lars: I had a really intense personal situation unfolding right around the time we started writing and making this album. … I actually had a broken off engagement. The timing of it all was challenging, and it was a really hard situation for me, so a lot of it topically pulls from that. And then I would say production wise—I don’t know—we’re kind of your classic white boy Coldplay fans to some degree. We’re maybe trying to branch out a bit more, but we can’t help it.
I would say the music we made in high school and early college was a lot more indie, slower, more somber, mid-tempo, almost singer-songwriter type stuff. For this album, we really tried to be ambitious about asking, “Could these songs compete on the radio?” That’s one of the questions we wanted to go for.
So the songwriting process: Is that kind of a group effort, do you bring other people in or how does that work?
Lars: The first record inevitably ended up being a lot of just me and then bouncing ideas off the guys and Mark [Heimermann] as well. Mark and I also co-wrote a couple tunes, which was really cool. I would say that now that we’ve had some time under our belt to explore these creative relationships, it’s definitely a group process. We all throw ideas at the wall—we agree that the song is king.
You released the Stargazer Sessions this year, too. Was there a reason you wanted to release an acoustic version of your debut album?
Zach: The songs that we do on the record are really big, and they fill out a lot of space when we play in venues, but our natural thing is to just play with acoustic guitars and strip it down. We wanted to give the songs an opportunity to be in both spaces. I think one of the things we realized early on is that if you can take a song and strip it back to an acoustic guitar and a little box drum, and the song is still good, then you have a good song, which is criteria we try to put all our songs through.
Do you guys have a dream artist or band that you would like to open for? Do you have a specific “Yeah, we’ve made” moment that you’re looking forward to?
Seth: Kacey Musgraves for Basilica Block Party. So I think we’re good!
Jake: When her album came out, we literally stopped what we were doing. We couldn’t stop raving about the album. We listened to it over and over again. I’d also like to open for Maggie Rogers.
Zach: I think [I would choose] Coldplay just because I was so influenced by them, as cheesy as that sounds. We get a lot of inspiration from Coldplay and the way that those guys stuck together. And it’s not just Chris Martin; it’s the band Coldplay. Also, seeing their live shows is a whole another level. They’re in stadiums doing the most insane production. If we were opening up for them, that would be tough to beat.
What’s your favorite part about performing together?
Jake: We like to have fun together as a band, so I think my favorite moments are when we actually get to let loose and do that on stage. It’s really exciting to look around and be like, “Hey there’s a lot that goes into this, but this is what makes it worth it, right here.” And to look out at people in the audience and seeing them engaging and letting loose—I think that’s my favorite part about being on stage.
What artist or song do you have on repeat right now?
Jake: My one song that I had on repeat most recently was H.E.R.’s song “Hard Place,” which is the one that she performed live on the Grammys. I literally was listening to that song 15 times a day.
Lars: Mine recently was track one of the new Hozier album, “Nina Cried Power.”
Seth: I’ve been digging Deep Cut Continuum by John Mayer. “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” has been my go-to groove right now.
Zach: I’m still listening to the The 1975 record that came out in late November. Probably “Love It If We Made It” most specifically, but that whole album is really cool. I think as far as pop music goes, and dudes in a band that are doing cool stuff, they’re one of my favorites.
What do you like about the Minneapolis music scene? How do you think you fit into the music culture here?
Lars: What I like about the Minneapolis scene is that it’s actually doing a really good job of celebrating diversity. It’s one of the first things we noticed when we got to know First Avenue pretty well and when we got to do Best New Bands. There’s just a lot of inclusivity and diversity and presence in all different backgrounds, which I think is really impressive, unique, cool, and helpful. So, where we fit in is sort of strange. We’re four white dudes—like that’s the most classic, tired image of a band. We’re kind of the odd balls out in a lot of ways, I would say, which is a unique thing! It’s kind of cool that that’s the case. [We’re also different] because we’re trying to write intentionally catchy pop music. I would say that there’s a very vibrant indie and punk scene here in Minneapolis, so it’s almost like we stand out a little bit in that way, too.
This interview has been edited for style, length, and clarity.