The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon have shared their latest Big Red Machine single, “Phoenix.” The track finds the collaborators linking up with fellow indie icons Robin Peckinold of Fleet Foxes and Hadestown’s Anaïs Mitchell.
Pecknold opens the proceedings with an image that captures the track’s gentle pianos piercing though hazy synths. “Out in the loading bay light,” he sings, “Watching the fog recede/ Divided the flame you slowly gave to me.” You can picture his voice as the light that cuts across Vernon and Mitchell’s hazier vocals, as they soar on the chorus, “I was trying to find my way/ I was thinking my mind was made/ But you were making my heart change shape/ It’s all that I could take.”
“‘Phoenix’ was one of the last songs we wrote for this record,” Dessner said in a statement, continuing,
“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. 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 Anaïs 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.”
Pecknold added, “It was a high, high honor to work on this song, and beyond that it was a really interesting creative challenge. 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.”
Check out Big Red Machine’s “Phoenix” below.
How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? arrives August 27th on Dessner and Vernon’s own 37d03d, and pre-orders are ongoing. Previously, they shared the singles “Latter Days,” “The Ghost of Cincinnati,” and “Renegade” with Taylor Swift, which we named our Song of the Week.