They aspire to write catchy but meaningful pop-rock songs like Coldplay. They want to become so big in their local music scene that the industry can’t ignore them, like Twenty-One Pilots.
They hope to have a diverse, progressive audience like Static Panic and Gully Boys, groups they joined at First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2018 showcase last January.
Oh, and they also want to remain the unusually close and noncombatant friends that they are now, even after all living together in the same house. Yes, just like the Monkees.
If those goals sound far-fetched, then consider the quest the childhood pals in Yam Haus set for themselves last year, when they released their debut album “Stargazer” as a still largely unknown band:
“To headline our own show at First Avenue within a year,” guitarist Seth Blum recalled. “Which seemed pretty crazy at the time.”
Not only will Yam Haus headline First Ave on Friday, the earnest, wholesome and, yep, pretty gosh-darn handsome quartet’s show sold out long ago. That’s after packing the Fine Line and playing a Basilica Block Party main stage this year. There’s talk of a Palace Theatre gig next.
While they have a hyperlocal focus in the Twin Cities, the bandmates actually live just across the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wis., where we met up with them last month.
Three of the members grew up in the quaint riverside town, and all four live there now. So do their primary producer and one of their managers. Blum’s spouse, Meredith, even survived living with the whole band in the house that gave them their name.
Walking to a main-street coffee shop a mile downhill from said house — “yam” stands for “you are me” — they passed the bank where they keep a shared band account. They chatted with the local hockey coach who’s also a member of the nearby megachurch where some of them perform most Sundays. They were also recognized by a recent high school grad who fondly remembered bassist Zach Beinlich substitute-teaching while getting his master’s degree.
“They gave him the nickname the Hot Sub,” singer/guitarist Lars Pruitt said, razzing his friend while also talking him up. “He was set on becoming a school counselor, which he’d have been very good at.”
All four Yam Haus members were working toward good, nonmusical careers over the summer of 2017 when they decided to drop everything to make music together full time. The turning point was Pruitt getting his heart drop-kicked by an ex-fiancée who he said cheated on him.
“It was such disastrous blow at the time. It opened me up to wondering what life is all about, what I could do to make this a better world, all that sort of thinking,” the singer said with nary a hint of regret.
“I had made plans to get serious, settle down and get married, and then that happened. So I thought, ‘Screw it. I’m going to be a musician or nothing else!’ ”
After recruiting Detroit native Jake Felstow to be their drummer, the bandmates all moved into the blue, utterly nondescript ’60s rambler they rented that became the Yam Haus. Once under the same roof, they rehearsed like crazy. They also documented their goings-on with daily web videos.
“By the time we played our first shows, we had developed this consistent community of 50 to 100 people who showed up right from the start,” Felstow recalled.
To make ends meet, the members took a steady gig as the house band at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton, where Pruitt served as a worship leader.
While you’re still likely to see a couple of them happily playing there every Sunday morning, the Yam men are careful to talk proudly about their church duties without overemphasizing them.
“It really helped us focus and become the band we are,” Beinlich said.
However, Pruitt added, “we very much don’t want to be seen as a Christian band, especially in the context of Christianity in America circa 2019.”
“We do believe a lot of that stuff, but I do feel ashamed of the way churches put down certain groups of people nowadays. It’s systematically very broken.”
The closest the quartet’s self-released album gets to sounding biblical is the way it makes Pruitt’s heartache sound like devil’s play.
“I saw the light and tried to not get burned/ She thinks she’s got me but it’s time I finally learn,” he sings in “Bad News,” one of several tracks in which dark, angsty lyrics belie bright, buoyant guitars and catchy melodies.
A former captain of the Hudson Raiders hockey team whose theatrical parents met in a touring production of “The Snow Leopard,” Pruitt said those upbeat, unabashedly accessible qualities are what keep him from now feeling mired in the misery behind those songs.
“From the start, we wanted to be a band that was popular and widely likable,” he said. “So we started thinking about how to create crazy energy at our shows, and how to write a chorus that’s really catchy.
“We’re not afraid to admit we want the soccer moms in Bloomington to like us as much as the kids in leather jackets at Memory Lanes on punk-rock bowling night.”
Pruitt is finding it a lot easier to write upbeat songs nowadays. He wound up getting married after all — to Kayla, who has since signed on full time as another auxiliary Yam Haus team member.
The couple now live in a separate house with Blum and his wife. They’re only a couple of blocks away from the Yam Haus, where the two unmarried members still live.
“Both of their wives are saints the way they put up with us,” Beinlich said.
Said Pruitt, “I was insistent on not getting into another relationship, but then I found this woman that completely wowed and humbled me. So yeah, I have to keep myself from writing sappy love songs now.”
There’s still a little edge and melancholy in the new singles Yam Haus has dropped in recent months, including the dance-rock jam “The Thrill” and the Head & the Heart-flavored power ballad “Wake Up.”
The band has many more new tunes in the can but doesn’t plan to release an album anytime soon. They’re waiting either for interest from a record label or the chance to join some bigger tours.
While they’re looking ahead at long-term success, they’re not looking to leave their namesake house or the cozy, affordable confines of Hudson anytime soon.
“For us just to be able to get by playing music full time while living here is something I’m proud of,” said Felstow.
Pruitt thinks he might stick to his quiet hometown even when (not “if”) the band breaks big beyond the Twin Cities.
“We’re all pretty chill dudes — neighborhood dudes — who go to bed at pretty regular hours and don’t raise much hell,” he said.
“I don’t think that disqualifies us from making great rock ’n’ roll. And I don’t think we’d be making good music if we weren’t being true to ourselves.”