Big Red Machine is a duo comprising The National's Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. This was one of the first songs Dessner wrote for their second album, How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?
"Brycie" is Bryce Dessner, the twin brother and the National bandmate of Aaron Dessner. He penned this song to express gratitude to his sibling for supporting him through mental illness. "I was hospitalized for depression when I was in high school and my brother covered for me and literally prevented me from doing anything bad to myself," Aaron Dessner explained to Uncut magazine. "But having that relationship, as close as we are, it's also hard sometimes. We've had major family trauma, but talking about it and writing about it, even though I've had to cloak some things, helped me stay above the ground."
Aaron Dessner wrote the music first, composing it backstage in Washington, D.C. It was clear even then he would pen the lyrics about his brother. "I think even the way that I was playing the guitar was how he and I play the guitar together," he told Apple Music. "These interlocking, twin, mirrored guitar parts."
Aaron and Bryce Dessner are actually playing their guitars together in the song. Bryce also did the orchestration.
The song finds Dessner providing lead vocals for the first time in his career. He also sings lead on two other How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? tracks: "Magnolia" and "The Ghost of Cincinnati."
The album title comes from a line from the opening song, "Latter Days," which Anaïs Mitchell wrote after hearing "Brycie."
"How long?" Is what you asked
"How long do you think it's gonna last?"