Big Red Machine (band)

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Big Red Machine
Big Red Machine performing at Primavera Sound, 2019
Big Red Machine performing at Primavera Sound, 2019
Background information
OriginEau Claire, Wisconsin, United States
Years active2018–present
Associated acts

Big Red Machine is an American indie folk band that began as a collaboration between musicians Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon.[1]


2008–2016: Formation and beginnings[edit]

Big Red Machine began as a musical collaboration in 2008, when Aaron Dessner messaged Justin Vernon on MySpace, without any prior personal meeting. Dessner sent Vernon an instrumental idea for a compilation album named Dark Was the Night, benefiting the Red Hot Organization, which he wanted Vernon to write a song for.[2] The sketch was titled "Big Red Machine", and Vernon created a completed song using the track. The album was celebrated with a show at Radio City Music Hall, where the two met and began further collaborating. Since then, they have worked on a number of projects together, including PEOPLE Collective, Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, and Day of the Dead.[2]

Dessner is most famous for being a founding member, songwriter, and producer for The National, and Vernon for being the leader of Bon Iver.

In 2016, Vernon, Dessner, and Dessner's twin brother Bryce Dessner founded an artist collective named PEOPLE. The PEOPLE website states that the concept aims to "establish an independent and nurturing space in which to make work (generally around music) that is collaborative, spontaneous and expressive in nature and where all unnecessary distractions or obstacles that get in the way are removed."[3] They first gathered for a festival at Funkhaus, Berlin, in 2016. The second festival took place in 2018, again at Funkhaus. Since 2016, Big Red Machine has played festival sets at Eaux Claires, Haven, and From a Safe Harbour.[4]

Dessner has stated that the original sketch that he sent to Vernon in 2008, named "Big Red Machine", uses the nickname of the 1970s Cincinnati Reds teams that won the World Series back to back in 1975 and 1976. The team received the nickname "The Big Red Machine" throughout this successful period. Aaron Dessner grew up in Cincinnati, and he and his twin brother were born in 1976, during the Reds' run.[5]

2018–2019: Big Red Machine[edit]

Big Red Machine released their debut album Big Red Machine on August 31, 2018, via PEOPLE and Jagjaguwar. Prior to this, the outfit released four tracks from the full-length album: "Gratitude", "Lyla", "Hymnostic", and "Forest Green".[6] The 10-track self-titled album was co-produced by Dessner, Vernon, and Brad Cook, while Jonathan Low mixed the recording. The album features approximately 40 collaborators, including Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf, Richard Parry, Phoebe Bridgers, Lisa Hannigan, JT Bates, and Kate Stables, among others.[6] The majority of the album was recorded in Dessner's shed studio in the Hudson Valley,[7] where Dessner also recorded the 2017 The National album Sleep Well Beast.[8]

2020–present: Taylor Swift collaborations and second album[edit]

In 2020, it was announced that Dessner and Vernon had begun work on new Big Red Machine material. Early in the year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael Stipe appeared on several late-night shows, premiering a new song called "No Time for Love Like Now". The song was revealed to be a Big Red Machine song, and the single, featuring Stipe on vocals, was released in June.[9] Dessner also performed several unreleased Big Red Machine songs during an Instagram Live session. In April—December 2020, Dessner co-produced and co-wrote many tracks on Folklore and Evermore, the 2020 albums by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift;[10] Vernon also contributed vocals and instrumentation on some of the tracks. Dessner and Swift won Album of the Year for Folklore at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.[11]

In August 2020, Dessner confirmed that Big Red Machine were finalizing and arranging new music for an upcoming album.[12] Later that year, the band released two covers of Aimee Mann's "Wise Up" and collaborated with Sharon Van Etten on the reissue of her album Epic.[13][14] Additionally, Vernon, in his "Visit with Vernon" web series, performed an unreleased Big Red Machine song called "Latterdays", that had perviously also been performed by Dessner during his Instagram Live concert. "Latterdays" was co-written by Hadestown writer Anaïs Mitchell.[15] In April 2021, Vernon teased a potential collaboration with Swift.[16]

In June 2021, the band announced their second album, How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?, scheduled to be released on August 27, 2021. In the week of the announcement, they released the singles "Latter Days" (featuring Mitchell), "The Ghost of Cincinnati", and "Renegade" (featuring Swift).[17][18]


Studio albums[edit]



  1. ^ Atkinson, Katie (July 2, 2021). "Big Red Machine & Taylor Swift's 'Renegade' Has Arrived: Stream It Now". Billboard. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Dessner, Aaron (February 10, 2015). "Eaux Claires Opens Up". Interview Magazine. Interview Magazine. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  3. ^ PEOPLE. "37d03d". PEOPLE. PEOPLE. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Kaye, Ben (July 13, 2018). "Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon's Big Red Machine announce debut LP, share four songs: Stream". Consequence of Sound. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  5. ^ Dessner, Aaron (February 10, 2015). "Eaux Claires Opens Up". Interview Magazine. Interview Magazine. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Kaye, Ben (July 13, 2018). "Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon's Big Red Machine announce debut LP, share four songs: Stream". Consequence of Sound. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  7. ^ Kahn, Andy (July 12, 2018). "Justin Vernon & Aaron Dessner Announce Big Red Machine Debut Album". JamBase. JamBase. Retrieved October 18, 2018..
  8. ^ Doyle, Tom (October 2017). "Aaron Dessner & Jonathan Low: Recording Sleep Well Beast". Sound on Sound. SOS Sound on Sound. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  9. ^ Martoccio, Angie (June 11, 2020). "Michael Stipe, Big Red Machine Drop 'No Time for Love Like Now' Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  10. ^ Shaffer, Claire (December 18, 2020). "Aaron Dessner on How His Collaborative Chemistry With Taylor Swift Led to 'Evermore'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  11. ^ "Aaron Dessner pays tribute to Taylor Swift following Grammys win". NME. March 15, 2021. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  12. ^ Nattress, Katrina (August 1, 2020). "The National's Aaron Dessner Teases New Big Red Machine Music". Spin. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  13. ^ Martoccio, Angie (March 4, 2021). "Sharon Van Etten Preps 'Epic' Anniversary LP With Covers by Fiona Apple, Big Red Machine". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  14. ^ Minsker, Evan (November 2, 2020). "Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner's Big Red Machine Cover Aimee Mann's "Wise Up"". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  15. ^ Yoo, Noah (October 15, 2020). "Watch Justin Vernon Play a New Big Red Machine Song". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  16. ^ Moore, Sam (April 14, 2021). "Bon Iver's Justin Vernon previews new Big Red Machine track with Taylor Swift". NME. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  17. ^ Minsker, Evan (June 29, 2021). "Big Red Machine (Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner) Announce New Album With Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes, and More". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  18. ^ Nast, Condé. "Listen to Big Red Machine's New Song "The Ghost of Cincinnati"". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 1, 2021.

External links[edit]