Puneet Varma (Editor)


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Years active  1991–1996
Associated acts  No. 2 Quasi
Heatmiser img2aklstfmiuarO643a80febdf548af9d1e3156d50
Origin  Portland, Oregon, United States
Past members  Elliott Smith Neil Gust Tony Lash Sam Coomes Brandt Peterson
Members  Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Sam Coomes
Genres  Indie rock, Alternative rock
Record labels  Cavity Search Records, Frontier Records, Caroline Records, Virgin Records
Albums  Mic City Sons, Cop and Speeder, Dead Air, Yellow No 5

Heatmiser mic city sons full album hq

Heatmiser was an American alternative rock band, formed in Portland, Oregon in October 1991. Consisting of Elliott Smith (guitar and vocals), Neil Gust (guitar and vocals), Brandt Peterson (bass; later to be replaced by Sam Coomes, frontman of Quasi) and Tony Lash (drums), they were known for their well-crafted lyrics and songs often featuring the juxtaposition of melancholic and cheery words and melodies. The pop-oriented songs of Elliott Smith were a contrast to the darker songs of Neil Gust, while both Smith and Gust's songs touched on subjects such as anger, alienation, loneliness and despair.


Heatmiser blackout bohemia afterdark

Pre-Heatmiser early years (1987–1990)

In 1987, while both of them were attending classes at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, Neil Gust and Elliott Smith met and formed a band. In addition to covers of songs by Ringo Starr and Elvis Costello, the pair performed original songs in clubs in nearby Northampton.

Heatmiser early years: Dead Air and Cop and Speeder (1991–1993)

Following their graduation from Hampshire College in 1991, Gust and Smith returned to Portland, Oregon. Brandt Peterson played bass on the albums Dead Air and Cop and Speeder, the EP Yellow No. 5 and several singles.

Later years: line-up changes and Mic City Sons (1994–1996)

Peterson left the band in August 1994 and was replaced by Sam Coomes, a friend of Smith's. Coomes played on Heatmiser's last album, Mic City Sons, and on tour. Tony Lash went to high school with Elliott Smith and played flute in the school band and drums in Smith's band Stranger Than Fiction. He left Heatmiser in late 1996, prior to what would be their final tour. John Moen (later of The Decemberists) was brought in to play drums.

“Sam came in sort of towards the end, initially out of the kindness of his heart, because Heatmiser had a different bass player who was so confrontational that we eventually kicked him out,” Smith revealed eleven years later. “Boy, that was an unpleasant thing to do. I mean, kicking someone out of a band is like breaking up with somebody. At least in the band it was, because everybody except for me was really into it. I, to a certain degree, was pretty invested in the band emotionally or whatever. It actually came down to me kicking Brandt out, even though everybody agreed to it. We met up to do it, but then Brandt started asking everyone personally if they wanted him out. Then it came to me and I said I wanted him out. That guy was just such an asshole. That guy I don’t really care that much about. I mean, he was an okay guy, and we were friends for a while, but he just kind of worked up everybody’s nerves. His sense of humour was such that he always had to be making fun of somebody. He was just not a good time. I’d been living with the other singer and songwriter, Neil, for like years and years,” continues Smith. “Not as his boyfriend, but as his roommate. Not that it matters. I don’t care. That kind of thing I don’t think is anybody’s business. It never really occurred to me whether or not Neil was gay until he told me one day. It was very upsetting to him because he hadn’t told anyone. But it wasn’t upsetting to me. I had just never thought about it. By that point, just about all my friends that were men were gay.” Asked by Under The Radar's Marcus Kagler] why he thought that was, he explained: “Oh, I was around 20 or 19, and a lot of straight guys were… you know, just having kinds of conversations that I couldn’t really relate to. You know, just like very high-school. You know, like not being able to relate to jocks in high school. Sort of like that. Tony was a guy that I met in high school. He played flute in the high-school band, which is where I learned how to play the drums.”


The band broke up in the fall of 1996, prior to the release of their third and last album, Mic City Sons. "It was kind of ridiculous to carry it up to a certain point and then drop the ball or the bomb, like quitting the band right after we had signed to Virgin," recalled Smith. "I was the guy who made that gravy-train crash so to speak, and it was a gravy-train at the time. The breakup happened almost immediately after the contract was signed. I watched myself put my paw in the bear trap on that one because there was this clause about leaving members. In the event of the band dissolving, any members could be kept to that contract with or without their consent under the same terms. They didn't pick up Neil's option, only mine. It turned out to be a fucked-up situation because they said the reason they had signed Heatmiser was that they'd been hoping this [the breakup] would happen-or something to that effect. They said that right in front of Neil and I couldn't believe it."

Gust went on to play in the band No. 2. Coomes carried on as half of Quasi, as well as playing as a guest musician for Built to Spill and Sleater-Kinney. Lash currently keeps himself busy as a producer. He produced the first two albums by The Dandy Warhols and he helped with the production of Death Cab for Cutie's first two studio albums (Something About Airplanes and We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes). Peterson teaches anthropology at Michigan State University. Smith went on to a successful solo career before his death on October 21, 2003.

Musical style

Heatmiser was labeled as a "homocore" or "queercore" band by the mainstream press, because of the themes espoused in the songs of the openly gay Gust. It was also speculated that Gust and Smith were lovers. Elliott Smith repeatedly denied this in interviews or that he was even gay. In one interview Smith said he "would probably be a lot happier if [he] was gay." Smith also said that Gust's being gay was "not a big deal, [nor] anyone's business".

Elliott Smith later dismissed the group's music as "loud", and his own singing on their first album as "an embarrassment". Smith also bemoaned that being in Heatmiser changed the songs he was writing at the time into "loud rock songs with no dynamic." Heatmiser also frustrated the members of the band. In an interview, Smith recalled:

Performance style

Brendan Benson was the opening act for Heatmiser on that tour. Reporter Jeff Stark's article about a date on that tour, a December 1, 1996 show at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill club, recalled Smith as "part charismatic rock star, part bar-band regular, oozing nonchalant confidence".

Heatmiser also had a less serious side:


Later in his career, Smith believed that his blatant dismissal of the band in interviews for his solo albums hurt Neil Gust and led to discontent between them. The success of Roman Candle and Elliott Smith caused tensions in the band, especially between Smith and Gust, and led to the band's break-up.


Studio albums
  • Dead Air (1993)
  • Cop and Speeder (1994)
  • Mic City Sons (1996)
  • EPs
  • The Music of Heatmiser (1992)
  • Yellow No. 5 (1994)
  • Singles
  • "Stray" (1993)
  • "Sleeping Pill" (1994)
  • "Everybody Has It" (1996)
  • Appears on
  • Puddlestomp (song: "Mightier Than You (Demo Version)")
  • 25 Years on the Edge: A Benefit for Outside In (Song: "Mightier Than You (Live Version)")
  • Live at the X-Ray (song: "Bottle Rocket (Live Version)")
  • Pet Sounds, Volume 1 (song: "Junior Mint")
  • Kamikaze: Music to Push You Over the Edge (song: "Stray")
  • How Low Can a Punk Get (song: "The Fix Is In")
  • Zero Effect: Motion Picture Soundtrack (1998) (song: "Rest My Head Against the Wall")
  • Songs

    Plainclothes ManMic City Sons · 1996
    Half RightMic City Sons · 1996
    Rest My Head Against the WallMic City Sons · 1996


    Heatmiser Wikipedia