Big Red Machine – the ever-evolving project from Aaron Dessner of The National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver – has released How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?
The 15-song sophomore album features the contributions of luminaries from the duo’s creative community including Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Taylor Swift, Anaïs Mitchell, Ben Howard, This Is The Kit, Naeem, Ilsey, Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond), The Westerlies and more.
Over the course of the summer, the band has released videos for album tracks ‘Mimi (feat. Ilsey)’, ‘Phoenix (feat. Fleet Foxes and Anaïs Mitchell)’, ‘Latter Days (feat. Anaïs Mitchell)’, ‘The Ghost of Cincinnati’, and ‘Renegade (feat. Taylor Swift)’. Earlier this month, Big Red Machine made an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where they performed ‘Phoenix (feat. Fleet Foxes and Anaïs Mitchell)’ and debuted album track ‘New Auburn’ as a web exclusive.
Aaron Dessner explains the nature of Big Red Machine,
“To me it’s like a laboratory for experimentation and also a vehicle to collaborate with friends and try to grow.” He continues, “And also to just reconnect with the feeling of what it’s like when you first start playing music — what it’s like when you’re making stuff without really knowing what it is.”
Big Red Machine’s latest release is both the product of that group effort, and the manifestation of Dessner’s musical vision, with Justin Vernon stepping out of the spotlight.
In the same profile, Vernon explains,
“I wanted it to feel much more inclusive and representative of all the extracurricular energy that we’ve been putting in over the years, trying to make the music industry a little more communist or something. And I got so tired of being lead singer guy, and I’m in another band. I was like, you’ve got so many connections. Let’s reach out and see what other people have feelings on these tracks. And I wanted to continue to support Aaron and honestly challenge him, frankly, to get out in front more. There are little bits and pieces that I show up and do on the record, and I obviously wrote some words and sang some tunes, but really, this is Aaron’s record.”
The generous spirit and desire to push music forward has never been more deeply felt than on Big Red Machine’s How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, the second album from Aaron Dessner’s ever-morphing project with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
Collaborators and friends show up across the album, continuing the reciprocal exchange of ideas that has come to define their creative community. Songs feature guest vocals and writing contributions from artist friends including Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold (‘Phoenix’), Ben Howard and This Is The Kit (‘June’s a River’), Naeem (‘Easy to Sabotage’), Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova (‘Hutch’) and Taylor Swift (‘Birch’ and ‘Renegade’). Swift’s sister albums “folklore” and “evermore” were co-produced by Dessner, and her encouragement helped Dessner realize “how connected this Big Red Machine music was to everything else I was doing, and that I was always supposed to be chasing these ideas.”
“That’s what makes it special. With everyone that’s on this record, there’s an openness, a creative generosity and an emotional quality that connects it all together.”
Cover photo: Graham Tolbert