Steve Von Till talks Harvestman, Neurosis, and Megaliths

Posted by on June 9, 2017

Steve Von Till [photo by Niela Von Till]

To say that it has been a productive run these last few years for Steve Von Till would be a massive understatement. The Neurosis cog, sometime solo artist, and mastermind behind one-man ambient folk outfit, Harvestman, Von Till has seen three records released in the last three calendar years. A solo record in 2015 was followed by Neurosis’ masterful Fires Within Fires album in 2016. This year sees Von Till releasing Music For Megaliths under his Harvestman moniker, while also prepping for a run of U.S. dates with Neurosis later this summer. But much like the ideas for each of the albums themselves, nothing was forced. For Von Till there was a natural flow to releasing three albums in as many years with as many different projects.

“It’s really just timing the way everything happens,” says Von Till from his Idaho home. “Neurosis is its own driven beast, the center of everything that happens and has nothing to do with what we would normally associate with linear time for producing records and that sort of thing. It just dictates its own pace and life dictates the rest of it. As ideas just boil up to a certain point of attention and demand to be heard you just kind of got to go with it.” 

Go with it Von Till has. Harvestman has always been a unique project, yet one that directly connects certain primal and ethereal concepts of Neurosis with the more folk-based approach of Von Till’s solo output. It’s a lush, gorgeous record that seemingly flows through a myriad of wormholes seeking to land simultaneously in various destinations of time and space. Equal parts surreal and centered, Von Till has created an album that demands a sort of give-and-take. It gives a whole host of aural stimulation in return for taking your undivided attention.

“It’s definitely improvisational,” says Van Till when asked about the Harvestman recording process. “I don’t have a set of riffs that I rehearse over and over and then record. I record it on the spot. The second it’s thought of it’s recorded. The arrangements reflect that. Harvestman is about creating moments or events. It’s meditative chasing a harmony or chasing the dissonance. That’s where I find my healing, my rejuvenation time.”

Harvestman is clearly a way for Von Till to follow a sonic muse, and his solo work reflects the art of crafting a memorable take on traditional folk music. In turn, it would go without saying that the coming together for a Neurosis recording is an entirely different process. “Neurosis is its own beast that takes the five of us to come together,” says Von Till. “We’re not the kind of band that writes completed songs, comes to practice and shows them to everybody. Maybe we’ll have a basic progression or jumping off point, but it’s an entirely different meat grinder where everything has to be through everyone’s filters and the music is telling us what it needs. We’re taking turns speaking for it but it demands its own presence. Our intellectual and spiritual hope is that we can keep pushing the envelope by having the good fortune to have found each other and this sound.” 

A sense of spirituality has consistently permeated Von Till’s work. Neurosis taps into this sort of pseudo-religious process complete with band devotees who worship at their collective altar, and a proper aesthetic that is maintained and ultimately enhanced with each release. But there is also context involved. For example, there are lyrics and subject matter to help build the Neurosis temple. For Harvestman, the spiritual connections for both Von Till and his listeners run a somewhat different current and the language of spirituality through instrumentation is a more subtle venture. That drive for a spiritual connection isn’t any less important though as the title of the album would allude to.

“It’s something that I’ve obsessed on my whole life and I’m sure it even sneaks into Neurosis here and there,” Von Till says when asked about the significance of megaliths and other spiritual structures of the ancient world. “I’ve just felt connected to these Neolithic and megalithic sites, especially the ones I’m most familiar with in Western Europe. I’ve always been bewildered by this great effort by these people that traditional historians would lead us to believe were primitive societies, that they took the time to build these unique and deeply spiritual places, or bury the dead, or mark a significant spot in the Earth that had some sort of resonance for them. To me that tells me that there was something really connected going on in these early agricultural societies. To me, meditating on those things or old folk tales and mythology, in my mind I draw a connection from those places to music. Maybe these guitars and fuzz boxes and recording devices are our tools to connect with our deeper selves in this modern world that has become so fractured.” 

Von Till, and his mates in Neurosis will never be confused for artists chasing the proverbial golden ring. For all projects that fall under Von Till’s watchful eye there is an element of knowledge-gathering, of building each song in the same brick-by-muddy-brick style that those ancient sites were crafted. With each recorded output Von Till grows as an artist and his fans expand their concepts of music as a tool for whatever spiritual road trip you are willing to venture on. For Von Till though he wouldn’t have it any other way, “It’s a cliche, but it’s about the journey not the destination because we don’t really know where the destination is.”

Music For Megaliths is out now via Neurot Recordings.


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