The genesis of the song was a riff that guitarist Brad Shultz came up with, inspired by the late Memphis, Tennessee axeman, Jay Reatard.
Vocalist Matthew Shultz recalled to Consequence of Sound
: "Brad was listening to a lot of Jay Reatard at the time and was inspired by the riffs that Jay was so incredible at writing. We had already recorded a majority of the record and took small breaks from the studio with Dan [Auerbach] and went and demoed some new tracks. 'Mess Around' almost didn't make the record - Brad was unconvinced that it fit. And I overheard him playing the riff and got really excited, and then convinced Brad to pursue it as a song."