INTERVIEW: Yam Haus
By Carly Tagen-Dye
Comprised of Lawrence “Lars” Pruitt (vocals/guitar), Seth Blum (guitar), Jake Felstow (drums), and Zach Beinlich (bass), Minneapolis’ rising rockers Yam Haus are a fun and fresh force to be reckoned with. Their debut album Stargazer introduced the group’s electrifying pop songs to the world; their smooth synths and enthralling lyrics have earned them praise and recognition far beyond the Midwest. Underneath their pop personas, however, are four guys who love every aspect of what they do. At the heart of this band is excitement for new experiences and an openness for everything their journey has to offer. We recently caught up with Seth and Jake about the band’s upcoming single “The Thrill,” daily vlogs, and more.
HEM: It’s nice to meet you guys! To start with a bit of background, how did Yam Haus get started?
JF: Lawrence—or Lars, Seth, and Zach went to high school together. Seth and Zach actually played hockey on the same team and hated each other. Since then, they’ve become good friends. Seth and Lars played a lot of music together.
SB: Yeah, we put out a few EP’s.
JF: A few mixtapes (laughs).
SB: We had a kind of crazy encounter. A guy named Mark Heimermann [now, Yam Haus’ producer] came out of the blue from Nashville. He had a thirty year career there, writing huge songs and doing a lot of high level stuff, and then just moved to Minneapolis on a whim. Mark was like, “Dude, I want you to be at the studio full time” [to Lawrence]. That was the beginning of the “firework connection” between Lawrence and Mark. And as the music was coming together, Lawrence started picking out how he wanted to put a band together. He called up his high school buddies and we all changed our lives to fit around doing this with everything we had.
JF: I went to school in Minneapolis to study music. Lawrence needed a drummer so they approached me and said, “Hey, what do you think about dropping what you’re doing in your life and moving over to Hudson, Wisconsin to make music?” It was quite the reach for sure. I was doing a couple different things musically and working with different artists that were like, “Okay, let’s do this all out and go a hundred percent.” The thing is, so many bands out there give a hundred percent and still don’t make it. The mindset [Yam Haus] had was that the least we could do was give a hundred percent and go for it. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last two years now!
HEM: So Stargazer was written before you guys got together and stuff?
SB: Yeah. It was kind of a mixture of Lawrence and Mark originally in the studio. In Minneapolis, there’s a super indie singer-songwriter scene, and naturally, that was a lot of what Lawrence and I had written in the past. Towards the end, we became more involved. It kind of all started coming together. Our album release was officially last June, but it was a long time cooking.
JF: I loved the process because it felt like the band formed around the music. It was a little more of a backroots way to go about it. It’s cool to see how we’ve really bonded as a band since then. It informed this next batch of music, starting with “The Thrill,” which was a totally different creative process for how it came to be.
HEM: Aside from bringing you guys together as a band, did you discover anything else—either about your music or yourselves—from recording your debut?
JF: One of the biggest things that we learned was during last year. We were getting ready to launch the record and were playing a lot of shows. It felt like we all found our identity. We like when people are at shows and they actually have an experience. [At those shows, we saw that people] were listening to us play music, but they were actually coming and having fun and letting go of whatever else was going on in their lives. We want to write songs that people can have fun and dance to. I think that informed a lot of our brand as a band.
HEM: I’ve definitely gotten those feel-good vibes from your music and videos. So, Stargazer kind of set the stage for “The Thrill” and everything that’s coming up. What kind of new ideas or strategies made their way into this new single?
JF: It’s fun how ideas kind of came to be in this second round of music. It starts with either one of us in the band or our producer Mark. “The Thrill” started with Mark and that falsetto melody. He didn’t have the lyrics; he just had that little hook. We grabbed it right away and started developing the song and adding other sections. I remember Zach jumped in; he was actually the one that wrote the line about the thrill (“Everyone’s looking for the thrill of the night.”) It was cool to see how collaborative the whole song became and how many people were influencing the final product. I think the biggest thing we were realizing with this song was [this idea] that so many people today are engulfed in their phones and social media. What that has created is a big sense of FOMO, where you always kinda feel like you’re on the outside, you know? We’re kind of just commenting on the concept that maybe there’s more than feeling that you’re a part of something or included.
SB: It is ironic, though. It’s kind of like saying that that is equally as glorifying as the moment. It’s never going to be the end all, be all of arriving at complete happiness. The songs that we’re writing through “The Thrill” are so focused on creating a live experience; a moment that will actually be remembered and enjoyed. We want to value and cherish them.
HEM: Do you guys have any lyrics that you feel represent the band the most?
SB: Yeah! So [our band name] Yam Haus...Yam stands for “You Are Me.” We wanted [to express] something that was pretty tight to how we operate internally and with each other, as well as our managers, label, friends and all the people that we interact with...just treating them with value and respect. A song that I think that capitalizes [on that] is a track called “Too Many People.” It’s a way for us to share how we feel about the people we’re sharing it with, as well as the people that are singing it with their friends. It creates this very cool moment of togetherness. We want to create that in everything we do, whether it’s music or merch or videos.
JF: [Another] lyric that always comes to mind is in “Get Somewhere.” The chorus, “I think I’m right where I belong,” is this concept that you don’t think about too often. Like, do we ever actually take time to be in the moment? I think that’s the same concept of “Right Now Forever,” where we say “I wish it was right now forever.” The experience that we want people to have at shows is to step back and actually live in it for a second. That’s a big theme, too.
HEM: That’s one of the things that I found so great when looking up your band—how open you guys are to sharing your music, both through your website and in-person, and how much you want to interact with your fans. Your “Haus” shows, where you guys travel around to play for people right at home, is such a great idea. What inspired that?
SB: The short answer is that this is all we do. If we’re not playing shows or selling merchandise, then Yam Haus has to end, and we don’t want that to happen. It has led us to some crazy places and interactions. The things that we have said “yes” and been open to have been far more valuable than a paycheck. It’s unique how you’re out to do this gig and make some money, and then you’re leaving thinking, “That was one of the most incredible experiences that I’ve ever had.”
JF: Some of our truest fans come from doing Haus shows, because it’s so personal being in a room with people in a smaller environment. Like, you meet people and you actually have face-to-face connections. Those people become advocates for your music, supporting you as a band. They become friends that will consistently show up and support you at different shows...they kind of become your internal crew.
HEM: Do you have any memorable experiences from playing one of these gigs?
SB: This has been a theme this summer, but people will actually build stages in their backyard for our Yam Haus shows! Like, we have no expectations of what it’s going to be like. It’s fun to see how creative people get with things. We’re like, “Did you already have this here? Did you just make it?” And they’re like, “No, we literally just built it for you guys to play!” One of them was this grad party, and the parents were saying, “We have this dream that we’re gonna build a deck and have Adele come in and sing at the graduation party.” You know, as like a joke with their friends. They ended up building the deck, but they couldn’t get Adele so they got the next best thing. (laughs)
HEM: If you could travel anywhere for one of these shows, or perform with a special guest like Adele, where and who would it be?
JF: It would be really fun to play with the Jonas Brothers. Like, as much as that kind of came out of nowhere.
HEM: They’re making a great comeback, though!
JF: Yeah! It’s great pop music, and I actually feel like their band is [doing something] similar to what we’re doing. It kind of took us by surprise, but then we were all like, “Oh, that’s actually pretty cool!”
SB: We played “Year 3000” at this Fourth of July party last night. It felt so right. (laughs) As for traveling, I want to do a European tour at some point. Anywhere over there would be amazing to see how different promotion, shows, and venues are.
JF: I agree.
SB: I will say that the most impressive arena show I’ve ever been to was when Coldplay came to Minneapolis for their most recent tour...the most unbelievable production and feeling. Coldplay is collectively our biggest inspiration bandwise. We love what they stand for with their music. If tomorrow I could just hop onto that level of size and quality...
JF: That’s the dream!
HEM: Yam Haus, the Jonas Brothers, and Coldplay would be a solid set! Switching gears a bit—I’ve watched a couple of the daily vlogs that you put up. What inspired you to do a video every day of the year? That takes a lot of commitment, so props to you!
JF: The original reason was we met a guy in New York who was going to manage us. We trusted his advice, and one of his suggestions was to start a daily vlog. This was before I was even a part of the band. The other guys were doing a daily vlog and weren’t releasing them to the public for two hundred days; I jumped in around 150. They were just private videos, 6-12 minutes, documenting the journey of Yam Haus. When we launched as Yam Haus, we released the backlog of vlogs and then kept making one every day for 365 days.
HEM: That sounds like an insane amount of work!
JF: It’s way more work than you would ever imagine. It did start the initial fanbase. When we started playing shows and releasing music, there were already so many people who felt like they knew us and were a part of what we were doing. It didn’t really feel like we were starting from zero, and it felt like we already knew people. That was probably the biggest benefit.
HEM: Do you have a favorite video that you’ve filmed?
SB: I don’t know if it’s my favorite video, but there’s one that I’ll look back on for the rest of my life. [Zach and I] were wearing hockey pads and [had] golf clubs...I had like a Darth Vader mask on or something. We were filming this squirrel hunt in our neighborhood and Zach and I were just like, “What are we doing with our lives?” Like, this was so stupid. I can’t believe that we woke up in the morning, put in hockey equipment, and chased a squirrel.
HEM: Did it at least get views?
SB: Not really! (laughs)
JF: I think a collective favorite of ours would be the Starbucks barista who sang back at us. It was after months of making these videos and nothing was really coming of it. We were a bit discouraged that day, so we were like, “Let’s go to Starbucks. We’ll bring a guitar and see what happens.” As we pulled up, we had this idea and were like, “Lars, what if you sang your order to the barista?” So we pull up and he gets out his guitar and sings, and the barista immediately starts singing back. It became a fun video that got shared a bit more than some of the others. That was just a fun win where it felt like other people were engaged and we were bringing joy.
HEM: For sure! So aside from “The Thrill,” is there anything else that fans should be on the lookout for coming up?
SF: We’re kind of in phase two for “The Thrill,” but after that, we don’t really have any plans for a formal album. At some point we will put it together, but we’re just on that single train right now. We’re feeling free to make whatever we want and are just working on a bunch of singles and videos for this next month. We’re trying to create a lot of good content and just be flexible on how we release it to kinda maximize what seems to connect with people.
HEM: Lastly, is there anything else you would like us to know?
SB: My chest hair looks exactly like the bat signal. And it’s all natural. The Batman logo is just on my chest, clear as day.
JF: It’s probably good for people to be aware of.
SB: Not many people know, but it’s something they probably should know if they want to be a Yam Haus fan. There’s also a Mexican restaurant in our hometown that we’re crazy about. It’s really good.
JF: That’s true, yeah. We like Mexican food, collectively. That’s a good fact.
SB: Chipotle. Our on-tour food is Chipotle.
HEM: If Chipotle is closed, what’s your second go-to?
SB: Well, Jake eats more of a squirrel diet. He sticks to nuts and carrots. Macronutrients. Lawrence and I just eat what’s in front of us most of the time.
J: Seth and I were doing the vegan thing at the beginning of this year, but when you’re on the road and trying to eat vegan, it gets challenging. (laughs) But the truth is, we have new music and videos in the works. It’s going to be different from the first album. It’s still going to sound like Yam Haus but it’s going to be a new step. We’re really excited for everybody to hear it!
With upcoming singles in the works and their already promising past releases, the future seems bright for the boys of Yam Haus! Make sure to keep up with them via social media (@yamhaus) to see what they’re up to (and to find out when that JoBros collab will be on the way).