Big Red Machine, the duo of the National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, have shared the opening track “Phoenix” from the upcoming collaboration-heavy LP How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?
The latest single features singer Anaïs Mitchell and Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, who co-wrote and co-produced the song. Named after the Arizona city, “Phoenix” marks the first collaboration between Pecknold and Big Red Machine.
“’Phoenix’ was one of the last songs we wrote for this record,” Dessner said in a statement. “I was thinking about the Band and the Grateful Dead … maybe imagining this Big Red Machine album was some version of The Last Waltz. Justin first heard it while driving and immediately the chorus melody came into his head.”
Dessner continued: “I shared the sketch with Robin Pecknold, who I’ve been a fan of forever and who I’d been dreaming would join us on this record. Robin wrote the verses and pre-chorus as a kind of dialogue with Justin, recalling a conversation they once had backstage in Phoenix. Later Anais wrote words to the chorus and the Westerlies added their magic to the instrumental. JT Bates rumbles around in rare form on the drums on this song. I think it’s what I always imagined Big Red Machine would sound like.”
“It was a high, high honor to work on this song, and beyond that, it was a really interesting creative challenge,” Pecknold said in a statement. “Justin’s vocals and the beautiful chorus were already in place before I got my hands on it, so I felt my job melodically and lyrically was to set his entrance up in the best possible way. I felt like a pilgrim putting questions to an elusive sage, not needing clear answers, but happy for the chance to ask.”
“Phoenix” follows “Latter Days” and the Taylor Swift-featuring “Renegade” off How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, due out August 27th on Jagjaguwar/37d03d. The album also includes appearances by Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, This Is My Kit, and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova.
“That’s what makes it special,” Dessner previously said of the album. “With everyone that’s on this record, there’s an openness, a creative generosity, and an emotional quality that connects it all together.”