"James" was written while MGMT were high on acid. Andrew VanWyngarden, Ben Goldwasser and co-producer Patrick Wimberly took what they thought was a "a microdose of acid," but it turned out to be more of a macro-dose.
"I spent hours screaming at the top of my lungs about Pakistan," VanWyngarden explained to Q magazine.
The idea looked like backfiring until Goldwasser stumbled on a keyboard loop and the two were able to completed the whole song during the single session.
The song is a tribute to Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser's good friend James Richardson, who is the guitarist in MGMT’s live band.