The release of American singer–songwriter Sharon Van Etten's 2010 sophomore album Epic coincided with a difficult breakup of a relationship. She busied herself with touring for the record, but when the singer completed her schedule a year later, she found herself homeless in New York. After a period of sleeping on friends' couches, recovering from her heavy touring schedule, Van Etten hooked up the National's guitarist Aaron Dessner to record her third album, The Tramp. She told Spinner that that title is her own private joke about her experiences over the previous two years.
Explained Van Etten: "When you think of it, I'm a total goofball. I'm a Charlie Chaplin tramp. As far as being homeless, I was a tramp. With touring, I was tramping around. I looked up the word when I was considering it for the album title and the original definition is 'to be homeless.' Either in New Zealand or Australia, it means 'to camp' and 'to travel.' I'm a total physical comic like Charlie Chaplin, and because I write about love and it's about more than one person, I think people would laugh at the word 'tramp.' It's my own quiet joke. I feel like when a man is called 'tramp' it's more endearing than calling a woman a tramp. I decided to kind of own it a little bit."
This artillery-drummed rocker is the first single from The Tramp. It features Aaron Dessner and his brother Bryce, ambient singer-songwriter Julianna Barwick, Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner, and The Walkmen's Matt Barrick.
Van Etten hisses on this venomous attack on her former lover, "I had a thought that you would take me seriously." She explained to Spinner that the song, "is about trying to be at peace with a relationship in the past." The singer added: "Not everything ends beautifully. Sometimes it takes years to try to find peace and learn from it and be OK with it, to learn how to identify negative feelings without it affecting you, letting yourself be angry at things without taking it out on other people and letting it remain as thoughts and trying to train yourself out of thinking negatively."
Van Etten made her TV debut in January 2012 when she performed this song on Fallon accompanied by Aaron Dessner on guitar.
Sharon Van Etten told the crowd during her 2014 performance at the Green Man Festival in Wales that the song was inspired by her old boyfriend's ability to "enjoy sucking on my dreams."