If nothing else comes of Yam Haus' foray into the ever-widening world of network TV music competitions, the band is counting on at least two happy results from representing Minnesota in NBC's "American Song Contest" starting Monday.
"We're guaranteed to play on live TV at least once, which is cool," singer Lars Pruitt said.
The second assured outcome?
"Snoop Dogg will hear about our band and maybe even know about us intimately."
Billed as America's answer to Europe's long-running "Eurovision Song Contest," the new NBC show features the Doggfather as host alongside Kelly Clarkson, the inaugural "American Idol" winner and now talk-show staple.
Airing weekly through May 9, "American Song Contest" will feature 56 competing acts, each representing one U.S. state, district or territory.
Yam Haus got picked as the Minnesota entrant — never mind that the quartet actually formed in 2017 just across the state line in Hudson, Wis., where three of the members grew up.
"We think of it like we're as much a part of the Twin Cities as someone in Maple Grove, but we just happened to be from across the border," Pruitt said in a group conference call the day before they headed to Los Angeles last week.
For proof of their Twin Cities identity, drummer Jake Felstow pointed to all of the Minnesota imagery in their music videos, including the Stone Arch Bridge and Valleyfair. Three of the members also now live in the cities (guitarist Seth Blum remains the only Sconnie).
"We want to be humble Minnesotans and not claim bragging rights to Minnesota, but it feels right representing this state," Felstow said, "even though we know there are plenty of other great artists who could also be representing Minnesota on the show."
Yam Haus has certainly made a big mark within Minnesota, going from headlining First Avenue's Best New Bands of 2018 showcase to packing the State Fair Bandshell two nights last summer. In December, the quartet filled St. Paul's 2,500-capacity Palace Theatre after finishing a 2½-month fall North American tour with "Hate Me" hitmakers Blue October.
Already enough of a happening young rock act to have been recruited by the producers (there wasn't any entry contest or open audition), Yam Haus seems like a strong contender to go far in "American Song Contest."
The group's polished and poppy sound is accessible and commercially viable, variously comparable to Ed Sheeran, Bleachers and the Killers. Its four members — who cut their teeth in the house band at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton — are boy-next-door handsome and likable. The "Yam" in their name even stands for the all-inclusive mantra "you are me."
Still, the late-twentysomethings know they could face tough competition on the NBC show — including such well-known names as Jewel (representing Alaska), Macy Gray (Ohio) and even punchline-material romantic bellower Michael Bolton (Connecticut).
"I'm honestly just curious how that's going to play out, and I'm excited to hopefully get to meet some of them," Felstow said. "It makes us that much more grateful for the opportunity to get to show off our song alongside theirs."
Competitors will debut their songs, then audience members will be asked to vote on every week. If you've watched "The Voice" or "American Idol," you know the drill.
Yam Haus' entry will be a poppy rocker called "Ready to Go." The show's producers picked it from a handful of tracks the band offered out of a trove of new material worked up during COVID lockdown. The quartet has also been releasing new tunes steadily online, including an EP last month titled "Whatever It Is."
"We couldn't really do anything else, so we started writing a lot," bassist Zach Beinlich said, recounting how "Ready to Go" came up while he was "going through an Oasis/Blur '90s pop-rock phase."
"It started with this guitar riff that was a little more gnarly than a typical Yam Haus song, so I initially thought I wasn't even going to show it to the guys. But I showed it to Lars, and right away he wound up writing the chorus."
Yam Haus will perform "Ready to Go" at least once for the cameras in Los Angeles. NBC confirmed late last week the Minnesota entrants are among the 11 acts slated to perform in the premiere episode Monday. Then the band essentially has to be on call until early May to possibly appear again, depending on how its song fares.
Yam Haus already has plans in place to hit the road again for its own headlining tour that starts May 12 in Chicago. (Currently, there's no Minnesota gig on the itinerary.)
Whether or not they're crowned "American Song Contest" winners or finalists in the interim, the band members figure the exposure will at least help them continue to build up momentum on the road.
"This show totally came out of left field, and it seemed like a quicker way to grab more of a national audience than just pounding the pavement," Pruitt said. "But we still very much plan on doing that.
"We all watched 'American Idol' and 'The Voice' and enjoy them, but what we liked about this show is we're playing our own song, representing our home state, and basically we get to be ourselves."
As for any other additional aspirations from doing "American Song Contest," the singer added, "If we would get to smoke a joint with Snoop, that'd be a dream come true."
Hey, don't consider that a blemish on Yam Haus' clean-cut image; it's legal out there in California.
"American Song Contest"
Airs: Mondays 7-9 p.m. CT, starting March 21.
On: KARE-11 in the Twin Cities, Peacock streaming.