Guitarist Anand Wilder told MTV News: "It was a kind of quiet, folky, acoustic lullaby that I worked on. I think I stole a lyric out of, like, a Celtic book of verse for the first line and kind of went from there. I kind of wanted to write a song in the vein of 'Jealous Guy' by John Lennon, a song about being a weak man, a gambler or something like that. So we had that basic structure for the opening, and then Chris [Keating, vocals and keyboards] had the idea to drop this really heavy beat on top of it. And it completely changed the feel of the song."
Wilder recalled to Drowned in Sound: "'Madder Red' was a folky kind of jam that Ira [Wolf Tuton,bass] had sent to me, and I wrote all the lyrics and the melody. I think I took a line from this book of Celtic verse that I had, which was 'even when my luck is down…' it's a Kenny Rodgers/Glenn Campbell type of song, just the idea of being on the road, not living a normal 9 to 5 lifestyle and following your passion and that means you're away from your loved ones for long periods of time. It's a song of resignation, really, but then we threw a massive industrial sounding beat over it, which created a very interesting juxtaposition with the sweet sounding vocal."
The song's music video stars Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Kristen Bell as the owner of an unconventional pet.