“It was clear to Anaïs that the early sketch Justin and I made of ‘Latter Days’ was about childhood, or loss of innocence and nostalgia for a time before you’ve grown into adulthood — before you’ve hurt people or lost people and made mistakes," Dessner said in a statement about the song that features the sad-eyed refrain, "I recall it all forever/ How it found us where we lay/ With our arms around each other/ In the latter days."
Dessner said that Mitchell "defined the whole record when she sang that, as these same themes kept appearing again and again." The album will also feature Dessner and Vernon's most high-profile collaborator, Swift, who appears on the on the songs "Birch" and "Renegade." According to a release, "Renegade" was recorded at Kitty Committee Studio (aka Swift's Los Angeles home studio) in March of this year, the same week Swift and Dessner won the album of the year Grammy for her pandemic collection Folklore. Dessner produced the album and Vernon appeared on the collection.
How Long also features a number of other musicians, friends and previous collaborators on the expansive Big Red project, whose name is inspired by the 1970s nickname for the Cincinnati Reds, the baseball team from Dessner's hometown. Among the special guests who contributed vocals and writing to the album are Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold (“Phoenix”), Ben Howard and This Is the Kit (“June’s a River”), Naeem (“Easy to Sabotage’), Ilsey on "Mimi," La Force on "8:22 AM" and Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova (“Hutch"), which was inspired by Dessner’s late friend, Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison.
“This is all music I initially generated and feel emotionally connected to, but it has been very interesting to hear how different people relate to it and how different voices collide with it,” added Dessner, who also sings lead vocals on three tracks for the first time on an album. "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.”
Listen to "Latter Days" below.