“We’ve played like less than 10 shows, but at the ones we have played, we’ve gotten positive responses,” jokes Dorota Szuta, singer, songwriter, and guitarist of California trio Heavy Gus, who are about to kick off a short Fall tour that includes a September 7th stop at The Lounge at World Café Live. The band – rounded out by Lumineers touring member (and Dorota’s husband) Stelth Ulvang and Blind Pilot’s Ryan Dobrowski – released their debut LP, Notions, in August on BMG Records. The album has been drawing a plethora of comparisons to some of the best alternative acts of the ‘90s, so I’m not surprised that when I ask Dorota about some of her favorite music during a recent phone chat, she tells me, “I really love The Breeders, I love Yo La Tengo… The band Acetone is someone that me and my husband are really obsessed with. That kind of music seems to be our favorite.” And when I ask her about some of the highlights of the band’s thus-far short career, she tells me that live shows have been a big deal for her: “After not playing shows for so long with the pandemic, I forgot that playing music with your friends is so fun. That’s pretty simple, but that’s been a highlight.”
The pandemic (in addition to Szuta’s pregnancy and entry into motherhood) kept Heavy Gus largely confined to their desert town in California, but they have been steadily releasing singles and super rad (very Alternative Nation-looking) music videos over the past year, both of which she tells me are very inspired by where they live. “We live in a valley in the Eastern Sierra of California. It’s a high desert, so most days are dusty and hot and there’s a lot of sage brush and groundwater. If you listen to it, it sounds like the high desert,” says Dorota of the songs of Notions. And despite the professionalism of the music videos, she tells me that they were all actually relatively easy and convenient for the band to make: “We made most of the videos peak pandemic. ‘Still to Be’ and ‘Dinner for Breakfast’ were all shot within twenty minutes of our house and ‘Paracosm’ was at the pool 20 minutes away.” And she tells me that she actually thinks that helped make the videos turn out as cool as they did: “Sometimes it’s nice to have restraints, because then you just have to work with what you have… We just couldn’t play shows, so it was like, ‘What are we gonna do?’”
One particular music video has seemed to make a particularly noteworthy splash (pun intended) and also earned the band one specific demographic of supporters. “Our video for ‘Paracosm’ is like a timeline of me getting increasingly pregnant, and then swimming, and having a baby in the end. Because of that, a lot of moms have connected with it [laughs]. Pregnancy and birth is really special, so they are a lot of the people who have been really moved by it,” says Dorota. And she tells me that’s not the only amusing response that they’ve gotten: “One critic wrote something like, ‘She writes a lot of lyrics about her failing, or failed, relationship,’ which is so funny because Stelth and I are married [laughs].” However, she tells me that would actually seem to speak to the honesty of their songwriting: “We strive to be pretty open and vulnerable about our experiences, which I think is why the critic said our relationship was failed or failing [laughs]. But all relationships have tricky things and hard things and we both write pretty openly and honestly… It’s important to make yourself vulnerable to the listener if you want them to be able to relate to it, and I hope people feel like they can relate to it.”
When I ask Dorota what can be expected of the live show this coming Wednesday at World Café Live, she tells me that it will be a little different from the record, but that it will certainly be a fun time: “The record is a little more layered, but for the live show it’s just the stripped down, rockin’ three piece: me on bass, Stelth on guitar, and Ryan on drums… You can expect to dance, you can expect to bob your head, you can expect to shed a tear, you can expect to laugh a laugh.” She also tells me that the band’s current touring situation is new, but that it’s gone more smoothly than expected: “I had a baby a year ago, so touring and playing shows looks a little different than it used to, but it’s happening more easily than I thought it would, adding the familial element to travel.” Heavy Gus are planning to continue touring into the near future, in addition to working on a sophomore LP, and Dorota says the ultimate goal is just to continue making new fans: “I’m just happy anyone is connecting with it, moms or non-moms, the two categories of people [laughs].”
*Get your tickets here.