This song harks back to vocalist Bradford Cox's confused teenage years, when he was searching for identity, be it punk or simply trying to "find some release." Cox penned the tune at a friend's house in New York. He'd temporarily gone north from his hometown of Atlanta to get away from some personal difficulties.
La Vie Antérieure is French for a past life, 'Vie' meaning 'life' and 'Antérieure' meaning 'prior to' or 'previous to.'
Cox ended up playing bass on the track, but he told Billboard magazine this wasn't because of the departure of Deerhunter's long-time bassist Josh Fauver. "I played a lot of stuff on that song, but that's only because the demo is so confusing because I was drunk when I made it," he said. "I was in character for that song."