How a broken engagement formed the foundation for Yam Haus’ debut album

Yam Haus

Yam Haus Michael Becker

The universe has a whacked sense of balance.

Case in point: musician Lars Pruitt, who experienced the best and the worst life has to offer in short order. First, the worst: a broken-off engagement in 2016. “I was in a place where I bit off more than I could chew,” he says. “[The relationship] kind of fell through due to issues with trust and I kind of got my heart broke big time.”

Shortly thereafter, a fortuitous twist of fate: Pruitt met the founders of Hudson-based boutique record label the Hover Coalition and signed with them. “It was this strange cross of two pretty crazy situations happening at once,” he says.

At the time, Pruitt was in a band called Afton with Hudson High School buddies Zach Beinlich and Seth Blum. They pulled in Detroit native Jake Felstow and the foursome became Yam Haus. Stargazer, the band’s debut album, recalls both Maroon 5’s infectious pop-rock and the Lumineers’ piano-tinged dude choruses.

Pruitt collaborated with producer Mark Heimermann at Sevens-Gate Studio in Hudson on Stargazer’s songs, most of which pull from the juxtaposition of good and bad fortune in Pruitt’s recent past. “We’ve been here for centuries/We’ve lost and we’ve won/But there must be a reason for every season that goes and comes,” Pruitt sings on “Too Many People.” On “Get Somewhere,” he laments, “These days feel like it’s a comedy/I used to laugh along, but the joke is now on me/And she’s not something that I’ll get to love/You think you know someone, but this is a different song.”

“We want to be songwriters first,” Pruitt says. “It’s not easy to write pop songs that make you feel something.” He wants Yam Haus to become an enduring addition to the “four-headed monster of a pop band” category. “Obviously, the Beatles invented it,” he says. “The Stones perfected it and challenged it.”

Finding a name was the band’s first challenge. “There’s a band name for everything,” Pruitt says. “Say a word or two words, it’s probably a band name or a trademark.” It was the Hover Coalition founders that suggested “Yam Haus” because the band members all lived together in what they referred to as the “yam house.” “Yam” stands for “you and me,” a mantra the friends used as shorthand to convey that they held each other in at least as much esteem as they held themselves. “It was just a funny, quirky thing,” Pruitt says, which is as much of an explanation as any band will give you for its name.

Yam Haus has all the charismatic personalities you’d expect of a guy band. Electric guitarist Blum is “sort of like the dad in the band,” Pruitt says. “He reminds me of George Harrison. He’s kind of stoic and secretly incredibly creative.” Bassist Beinlich is the most athletic of the group and sees band rehearsals as akin to fitness training. “He’s kind of like the coach, blowing the whistle and keeping us in line,” Pruitt says. Drummer Felstow possesses an “almost childlike optimism and outlook on the world that we’re hoping the music industry doesn’t break in him,” Pruitt says.

As for Pruitt, he’s the “disorganized, emotional” frontman who hails from artistic genes. His mother tried the “rock and roll thing” in her youth and met Pruitt’s father in a production of the Snow Leopard at the Orpheum in the '80s. Pruitt played guitar and piano from a young age, putting those skills to good use in high school when he met Beinlich and Blum. “We were kind of that jam band that wanted to play in the cafeteria,” Pruitt says. He cites musical influences from the Clash and U2 to Green Day and Twenty One Pilots. He also loves Coldplay. “And I’m not ashamed to admit it,” he says.

The foursome is already at work on songs for their next album, and they won’t retread the same themes from Stargazer, though Pruitt admits the heartbreak was unexpectedly fruitful. “I grew up a lot and woke up to what life can really be about in terms of not needing the timing of the American Dream,” Pruitt says. “It was a huge blessing in disguise. I’m really grateful, strangely, for the whole experience. I truly think pain is a conduit to beauty and a deeper life experience.”

Yam Haus
With: Kaleb Lee
Where: Amsterdam Bar & Hall
When: 7 p.m. Fri. June 15
Tickets: $10 - $14; more info here