Heavy Gus: Lumineers’ Member’s Side Project Comes to Downtown E.C.

songwriting couple Dorota Szuta and Stelth Ulvang explore new musical energies

Eric Christenson

HEAVY TUNES. is Dorota Szuta, Stelth Ulvang, and Ryan Dobrowski
HEAVY TUNES. Heavy Gus is, left to right, Ryan Dobrowski, Dorota Szuta, and Stelth Ulvang. (Submitted photo)

Hot off some megaton performances at stadiums and festivals around the country playing keys with The Lumineers, it’s understandable that Stelth Ulvang might thrive by settling back into some rootsy indie rock with his passion project Heavy Gus. The trio – consisting of Ulvang, his partner and marine scientist/songwriter Dorota Szuta, and drummer Ryan Dobrowski (Blind Pilot) – released the debut Heavy Gus record, Notions, into the wild in August.

Ulvang and Szuta have been writing together for over a decade – songs that careen between indie folk, garage rock, and ’70s fuzz. As a couple, Ulvang said he and Szuta found a rare vulnerability in first sharing their own songs, then working on them together.

“I think that’s what made it really solid; we were taken aback by what we could do collaborating,” Ulvang said. And Szuta’s lyrical prowess is pretty remarkable too, penning songs about the passage of time, loose connections, fleeting moments, finding clarity – it’s all wildly expressive without being overwrought. 

The giddiness, it’s like a new love. There’s something new to latch onto and be excited about. Relationships need that, in whatever form.



Then after connecting with Dobrowski to give them some rhythmic inspiration to complete their sprawling catalog, the California-based trio got in the studio, filmed some music videos, and hit the road in a van named John Candy performing in clubs across the country.

It’s a starkly different turn from the massive anthemic stylings of The Lumineers, both in process and the songs themselves. For Ulvang, it’s a way to refresh – going back and forth, and leaning into the raw energy and looseness of Heavy Gus.

“The giddiness, it’s like a new love,” he said. “There’s something new to latch onto and be excited about. Relationships need that, in whatever form.”

Heavy Gus is making its first run of Midwest shows since the debut of Notions, playing the big tent at Big Top Chautauqua with Shakey Graves, then here in Eau Claire on their own at Forage on Oct. 8, before a gig at Minneapolis’ 7th St. Entry with Sister Species. Shortly after that, Ulvang will be taking off for Lumineers gigs in New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Japan, and Europe. 

And just about a year ago, Ulvang and Szuta welcomed a child into the world, a whole other journey to navigate as new parents and working musicians. But blessings abound for this band with a fresh energy, tons of experience, and the world before them. In their song “Scattered,” the chorus seems to sum up their running mantra leading them to new musical adventures all over the world: “Make it bright, make it good, keep it moving, keep it on, make it bright, make it count, keep on wild, keep it hot.”

Catch Heavy Gus performing on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Forage in downtown Eau Claire, 403 S. Barstow St. Tickets are $25, doors at 7:30pm, show at 8:30pm. Learn more at forageeauclaire.com, and check out more on Heavy Gus at heavygus.com.