It’s not uncommon for musicians from the Inland Northwest to move to California. But the opposite is true for Steve Von Till. The former Neurosis frontman grew up in San Francisco and remained there during the ‘80s and ‘90s while making a name for himself in the Bay Area punk scene.
However, shortly after the turn of the century, Von Till’s creative vision changed and he decided to raise his family in a different environment.
“I’ve always had a longing to live in nature,” Von Till said. “I always wanted the four seasons.”
A drive from Missoula to Seattle while on tour with Neurosis in the ’90s changed Von Till’s life. “When we were going through northern Idaho I was blown away by how beautiful it is. I remember what it was like the first time I saw the lake (Spirit Lake). It reminded me of the fjords in Norway. I decided that’s where I had to live.”
Von Till, 52, left the urban landscape of San Francisco for the more affordable open space of Spirit Lake in 2005. “I happily live on 12 acres here and my wife and I raised our two children, who are 22 and 19 now, here. It’s an amazing place,” Von Till said. “I decided to teach here and just enjoy life.”
Von Till is a fourth grade teacher at Garwood Elementary, in the Lakeland School District, but he still makes music. Von Till’s latest album, “No Wilderness Deep Enough” was inspired by his environment. His latest collection of songs are haunting and hypnotic. The new tunes are quite the contrast from the visceral punk of Neurosis. Synthesizers and strings propel the fresh cuts.
“I used keyboards and a cello to create this music,” Von Till said. “This is where I’m at now.” Von Till, who will perform Friday at the Lucky You Lounge, will play Spokane for the first time since moving to the area. “This is the closest to a hometown show for me,” Von Till said. “The reason I haven’t played Spokane before is due to flying off to major cities for one-off shows. I’m excited since a lot of friends and family are coming in for the show in Spokane.”
Von Till’s take on Spokane has changed dramatically since he moved to North Idaho. “I remember when I first came here and what my impression of Spokane was,” Von Till said. “I didn’t think Spokane had much to offer. But I’ve learned that it’s a pretty incredible city. I’m impressed with the thriving underground. There are so many people supporting culture. The arts scene is burgeoning. It really is an amazing thing.”
The bald and bearded singer-songwriter rarely visited Spokane after relocating to Idaho but Von Till can be spotted at his favorite book and record stores. “Giant Nerd is an incredible book store,” Von Till said. “It caters to folks like us who want the alternative. I love that you can find weird, good stuff there. And then there are several cool record stores in town. You can experience the classic, 4000 Holes and find lots of cool stuff and there are the newer shops like Total Trash that have a great underground music section. So yeah, I come into town to get my guitars worked on, buy records and books and get some restaurant culture, which we don’t have out here.”
But Von Till is content to primarily hang in his tree-lined world. “I found my home here,” Von Till said. “Like most sons of immigrants, I had to find my place, which is so different than my wife’s story. Her family has lived in the same area, same buildings for over 500 years in Germany. That’s hard to believe but it’s true. They have their home and we have ours in northern Idaho, which is such an inspiring place to live and we’re so close to Spokane. I’m excited about this show since I’m long overdue to play Spokane. It’s going to be a memorable evening.”
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