Batmanglij detailed the story behind the song during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session in 2013: "Ezra sent me a short story called 'Diplomat's Son' when we were in college," he recalled. "The last paragraph read: 'I wondered, watching him bleeding on the rugby field beneath my mud-covered boot, if he was looking at me through the proscenium of a Turkish taxicab's rumbling windshield or, perhaps, the small port window of the rickety boat which had taken him down the Ganges.'
"Years later," he continued, "I started working on a song on my own, this was between our first and our second albums, I knew I wanted two distinct parts with two really distinct grooves but both Jamaican in feel.
"I started to take the idea of the 'Diplomat's Son' and put it in a different context. I started to look at it as more of a love story than a story about competitive students. I had a vocal melody and lyrics for the chorus: 'He was a diplomat's son, It was '81'.
"Then Ezra and I got in the studio and started working on fleshing out the song: writing a verse, and pre-chorus together. More sections after that. Figuring out some vocals for the bridge as well.
"We added CT on drums, Baio on Bass... and the rest is history."