It was hard just to get the guys together at first because they seemed to know everyone in this coffee shop. As soon as the four members walked in, they were exchanging laughs and pleasantries with patrons in the store. Lead singer Lars Pruitt put it quite well – “it’s a really distracting office… and we have regulars here.” For the most part, Yam Haus started out in this cozy river town of Hudson, Wisconsin. It is still here where the squad of Lars Pruitt (Vocals/Guitar), Seth Blum (Guitar), Jake Felstow (Drums), and Zach Beinlich (Bass) resides and does everything from their interviews to studio sessions. I was lucky enough to catch the crew in the midst of a chaotic week – they have a lot on their plate with major shows coming up as well as the usual chaos of the winter with holidays and so on. Not many bands besides Yam Haus have the privilege of calling a Dunn Brothers Coffee their office. That’s where I found myself sitting this chilly Wednesday morning when the guys came rolling in.
Lars was the first to join me at the table, and with time the rest of the guys were sitting with me at this local favorite Dunn Brothers. From the outside looking in (minus the fact I was recording the conversation, and how there was a photographer floating around us) this felt and looked like a group of friends just hanging out and catching up. I was pleasantly surprised by how warm, friendly, and hilarious these guys were. And nothing had even been discussed yet besides introductions and an overview of what we were about to run through.
Following this brief introduction is an assortment of prompts and questions that the group and I waltzed through during our time together this past week, some of it serious and some of it not so serious. One thing is for sure – you will not find a more authentic, down to Earth group of guys like the four that make up Yam Haus. Starting out just a few years ago in Hudson, Wisconsin, the group has been gaining fame and attention at an awesome rate and if you aren’t a fan now – get on board before everyone else is. If not for their music, just their genuine and playful aroma alone is enough to make you want to follow these guys.
Why the name Yam Haus?
Zach Beinlich took the lead here. The band wasn’t always Yam Haus, but the name came about because it was actually the nickname for the house the band was living in. I joked that when I first heard of the band, my gut told me it would be some sort of Scandinavian EDM artist, but my humor was outmatched by a joke from Jake Felstow – “we’re a German house band actually.” The table was cracking up. These guys are a playful bunch, but what is really cool about the name (besides the fact that the band enjoys how confused some people get when they hear it) is that Yam is actually an acronym for “you are me,” which reflects their value of the golden rule and overall their awareness of how we’re all in this together. For a group that can be so upbeat and playful, this really shows the deeper and genuine side of the guys. As Felstow said, “this is something that we actually believe, and we actually want to treat people with respect in that way.” Seth Blum shortly followed up “it’s kind of like ‘Life is Good’… well that’s an actual brand, but.” The table lost it. Always so quick to a laugh.
How the heck did you guys manage to film your Music video, “The Thrill,” at Valleyfair?
To give background, the group shot their music video for “The Thrill” at the local amusement park, Valleyfair. A few joking responses came in- I should have expected it looking back! “We actually broke in” and “espionage” were both sarcastically dropped from the group before the truth came out. Zach Beinlich chimed in “it was our first video we did where we kind of handed all creative control to somebody else” and that someone was Jay Christiansen of F3 Visuals. Pruitt explained how they worked with F3 Visuals to exchange some drone footage for a free day to run around the park and film. If you haven’t seen the video check it out. Not only is it cool, but it was a pretty tolling task as well. From clown get-ups to having to ride the “Wild Thing” 8+ times, it was a lot of work but it came out fantastically, and if you haven’t seen it I would highly encourage it.
Seems like you guys have a playful, sarcastic sense of humor about you that fans enjoy – is that fair to say?
“Purely accidental. I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic” Lars Pruitt joked immediately. But, this really opened up a discussion with the band that I wasn’t expecting. When it comes to captions and social media as a whole, it is a challenge to keep things “real” or authentic when you’re in this industry because it is easy to buy into the lights and hype of having a growing amount of followers and fans. The guys like to joke around a lot while they’re working together or cruising around in the band’s van, and their harmless-yet-cheeky captions on Instagram and so on is how they try to keep their authenticity and genuine persona alive.
So you guys managed to sell out First Avenue – how much work did that take?
Beinlich spoke up first saying “less than expected;” the group agreed. “September was our busiest month for playing shows, and we announced the show in September” said Jake Felstow, then explaining how they advertised the First Ave gig at all the shows they had in the Twin Cities area. “Every show, we’d build in like a Sarah McLachlan call to arms” referring to her famous TV bits with the “arms of an angel” song playing in the background. In the past, the band has worked their tails off, from showing up randomly on college campuses to market, to pushing Lars around in a rolling case the guys refer to as “the coffin.” This is something they are not used to.
What is “A Very Yam Haus Christmas?”
Every year, the band hosts a holiday concert in Hudson, WI where 20% of the ticket sales go to River Valley Charities. They specifically contribute to what they referred to as the “backpack program.” Local businesses also chip in and get themselves promoted byway of the show. “We didn’t think we could do it this year because of First Avenue” said Felstow, but the group managed to figure it out regardless. If you are in the area, check it out! This is how the group likes to give back to their roots and make sure that they are doing their part for the local community they call home.
What inspired the “Stargazer Sessions?:”
The band had a lot of effects in their tracks on the initial “Stargazer” album, but fans who found them and listened to them at coffee shops or smaller venues kept coming up and saying how they really enjoyed the “stripped down” versions of some of their songs. So, the band took that as inspiration to release familiar tracks with a little natural twist. “It was a fun process. It was the middle of the summer of 2018… we just got together in our studio, and just like, played through the songs in one room… it was cool … it was organic” added Felstow, further saying “this is just us being us… it was our way of [putting out] just what we sound like” without bells and whistles. “Even if the song is massive on the record, if you can take it back with an acoustic guitar and vocal, and it’s still is a good song, that’s a good test” added Beinlich.
Tell us about “Haus Shows.” What are they?
Zach spoke up: “It’s basically just… if you want us to come play in your backyard at a pool party, or in your basement next to a fireplace, in whatever way you want us to play, we’ll come to your house, set up, and sing songs to you and your friends.” Sign me up! This has been the reliable way for the band to keep business flowing as well as developing a deeper, more personal connection with their fan base. Seth Blum joked how it initially started out with the band members parents initially hosting the shows, but things are growing and expanding. The band got lost in laughter and chatter recounting a Halloween party they performed at in a suburban basement with kids in costumes by request of a couple dads they met at the Basilica Block Party this past summer. Haus shows “kinda ground us” said Lars, further adding how the shows in this setting turn more into conversations and get-to-know-you’s.
What makes First Avenue so Special?
The December show on 12/13 is their first time headlining at First Avenue. “There’s a lot of history that I have personally” mentioned Beinlich; him and the rest of the band talked about going to shows there growing up and how surreal it has been playing their in the past for opening acts and side shows etc. In the past few weeks, band went to the Minnesota history museum where they were showing a special exhibit focusing on First Avenue. It made it all too real for the guys. Pruitt talked about how there was a sign on the way out highlighting First Ave events coming up on the calendar, and next to it was a couple of people talking about their band saying things like “oh, I’ve heard of them” and “yeah, they’re pretty good.” The fame grows.
What’s been tough for you guys as a band and what has kept you guys going when it does get tough?
“Booking venues early on was super hard, and now we’re starting to get a flow and a strategy. The biggest thing we have been learning is consistency. To continue doing it for the reasons you love and not getting caught up… with the fame part.” said Felstow. Lars added “the looming question mark of how are we going to sustain … making a living at this.” Further adding how “it’s one thing to get people’s attention, it’s another thing to keep people’s attention” which lead to Pruitt discussing how hard it can be to keeping an audience engaged while also trying to grow the audience. Another key thing here Pruitt got into was how creative risk taking gets involved. Pruitt had a great point about how you need to know when and when not to take risks, and how great bands like U2 and Radiohead took risks and that’s how they have boomed. I asked then, what kind of risks have you taken?
What risks have you guys taken as a band?
This might be one of the craziest stories I have ever heard. Pruitt mentioned how creative risk-taking is a big part of growth. I asked if they had any examples.
“We opened up for ourselves at a show last summer.” said Felstow.
Yep. No typos there. They did. The guys made a joke band named “VER,” and with alter-ego costumes and personas in hand, they took the stage at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis. The band consisted of the same members in disguise, with Lars lead singing as “Veronica” and the rest of the band playing “back-up drums.” Forget back-up singers and dancers; back-up drummers were here. “It was like a late 90s pop-star vibes.” They went to the lengths of even having chimes on stage. I don’t think I’ve heard of anything funnier.
So what’s next for Yam Haus? Are there plans to move west, south, or east?
The band has music and shows on the way this next year, but in the big picture the group plans on building the brand at home and not trying to do anything like running out to LA or Nashville as I have seen so many musicians do in the past. “We’re going to keep slowly trying to get opportunities” in the area, said Pruitt, further adding “we’re just going to keep turning knobs we can turn without going broke or burning ourselves out.” They are playing the long game, folks. Yam Haus isn’t going anywhere. With “lots of new music” on the way, keep your eyes peeled. Alongside that, it was hinted that more “risks” will be taken. Maybe VER is on its way back?
There will be a few more shows this month and next, as well as a long-awaited break for the guys this February.
“This next year, we really want people to know that we have music coming out and that we would love people’s consideration on.”
And Now for Something Completely Different (silly questions)
When asked who each band member would be as an Office Character, the group reached these consensuses…
Lars Pruitt: Michael Scott
Seth Blum: Kevin
Jake Felstow: Andy
Zach Beinlich: Roy (but this was hard for anyone to agree on, because it came out that Zach is a huge Office Fan, saying “I watch the Office like, every night before I got to bed, and I have watched the series 13 times.”)
What is the unofficial snack or drink of Yam Haus?
Supposedly, there was a phase where Seth Blum was a big garlic steamed quinoa guy that lead to some pleasant van rides, smell wise. Besides that, Garden of Life and Quest bars were deemed the band snacks, but the go-to food stop for the group was shared as well: Chipotle.
If you had to be Sponsored by a candy or snack brand, what would it be?
Almond Joy was automatically ruled out by Pruitt, but “Three Mustketeers” was proposed by Beinlich followed by Blum’s idea of Jack Link’s Jerky. However, the group rallied around Pruitt when he proposed the generic gummy sharks from gas stations.