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Background information
Origin Portland, Oregon, United States
Years active 1991–1996
Associated acts
Past members Elliott Smith
Neil Gust
Tony Lash
Sam Coomes
Brandt Peterson

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.


Pre-Heatmiser early years (1987–1990)[edit]

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.[1]

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

Following their graduation from Hampshire College in 1991, Gust and Smith returned to Portland, Oregon.[2] 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)[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] John Moen (later of The Decemberists) was brought in to play drums.[citation needed]


The band broke up in the fall of 1996, prior to the release of their third and last album, Mic City Sons.

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.[3] Smith went on to a successful solo career before his death on October 21, 2003.


Musical style[edit]

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.[1] 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".[citation needed]

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."[1] Heatmiser also frustrated the members of the band. In an interview, Smith recalled:

Performance style[edit]

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".[citation needed]

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.[5]


Studio albums
  • "Stray" (1993)
  • "Sleeping Pill" (1994)
  • "Everybody Has It" (1996)
Appears on
Various-artist compilations
  • 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")


  1. ^ a b c d Schutt, S. R. "Sweet Adeline | Biography – Page 5". Sweet Adeline. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ Kneitz, Paul. "Shooting Star, The Elliott Smith Story Part 1: Bottle Rocket [The Heatmiser Years]". Alternative Nation. Retrieved 3 February 2016. 
  3. ^ "07faclty.vp – 07faclty.pdf" (PDF). reg.msu.edu. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ Stark, Jeff (December 11, 1996). "Anti-Depressants". SF Weekly. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  5. ^ Kagler, Marcus (March 20, 2003). "Elliott Smith: Better Off Than Dead | Under the Radar". Under the Radar. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 

External links[edit]