The lead single for Switchfoot's ninth studio album, Fading West, takes bassist Tim Foreman back to the band's early days, when they were "driving around California stuffed into a minivan with guitars and drums, ready to take on the world." He added during an interview with Rolling Stone: "Armed with nothing but a few songs and a wild hope, we were dumb enough to think that it could work. Maybe that's the only way that the world has ever changed, by people dumb enough to try. So here's to everyone who's young and dumb enough to ignore the crowd and believe in who they are."
The song features vocals by Switchfoot band members' children, which links in with the song's message. Guitarist Drew Shirley told Evangelical Alliance's Idea magazine: "I love what I do - but am I being a good husband? Am I being a good father? Those are the questions I ask myself all the time. Marriage in rock 'n' roll is a wasteland. You look around and a lot of them are tragically affected in negative ways by stress, success, travel, adultery or pressures. It is such a blessing to have our wives and families behind us 100 per cent."
"The song 'Who We Are' is all about knowing your identity and living from a place of security," he added. "Our kids sang the backing on that track – a beautiful moment. I am a father, a husband, a rock guitarist, a friend, a music producer. Let who you are determine what you do, not what you do determine who you are."
Speaking with CCM magazine, vocalist Jon Foreman told the story behind the song. "As a band, our identity is forged by what we've endured together the highs and the lows of the past eight albums together," he explained. "This is a song that we wrote looking back at our story: a band of brothers- sleeping in vans, armed only with words, melodies, and ambition, trying to conquer the world together. '1, 2, 3, 4, 5...' The odd count in was to introduce the brotherhood of the five of us. The inspiration for this song began in the bridge- 'They said it's complicated, they said we'd never make it this far.' These words and this melody came to me out of the blue and became the skeleton for the rest of the tune."
"Over the course of 2013, we were completing an album and a movie, both titled Fading West," Foreman continued. "Musically, our goals for the record were to match the exotic landscapes captured in the film with our instrumentation. To do this, we tried to rethink our use of traditional rock instruments or abandon them altogether. The verses of 'Who We Are' are a great example of that line of thought. Instead of finding our guitar inspiration in the traditional western sources of Led Zep. or The Beatles, we looked to Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician."
"The vocal layering in the chorus is another example of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone," he continued. "The song was pretty much completed, but we still felt like there was something missing. We toyed with changing the melody of the chorus, but it didn't feel quite right. Somehow the lyric wasn't connecting with it- it lacked the youth and spark in the identity that the chorus was singing about. The vocals didn't feel like they belonged with the rest of the track, as if they were not adventurous enough. So we decided to bring the song home, literally. For me, my role in my daughter's life as a father is one of the highest privileges I could ever think of. Who better to sing about our identity than our children? So we brought our kids in to sing in the chorus, and all at once the song felt completed. Like the movie, the song took a trip around the world to finally find its place at home."