This song was inspired by Anthony J. Showalter and Elisha A. Hoffman's 1887 hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." Showalter penned the classic spiritual tune after receiving letters from two of his former pupils saying that their wives had died. As the former teacher wrote letters of consolation, he was inspired by the phrase in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 33:27 - "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
The hymn features prominently in the scores of the movies Night of the Hunter and the 2010 version of True Grit.
Singer Ezra Koenig told NME: "I'd been obsessed with this 19th century American hymn 'Leaning on The Everlasting Arms', where they talk about how the stability the singer gets from their faith, but with our song there's a darker riff on the same idea - someone who's maybe in a bad place and yearning for that."
Vampire Weekend debuted the song live during their show at the Metro Theatre in Sydney on January 23, 2013.
Ezra Koenig was brought up in a Jewish family, and this song refers to the eternal peace found in the embrace of a faith community. "There have been times I felt marginalized, being one of the only Jewish kids where I grew up," he told Spin magazine. "And there've been times when I felt like part of something bigger, when I meet other Jewish people. There are times when I feel alone in a crowd. Those are struggles that I think everybody has. It's a beautiful idea, being part of a community. But you lose some sense of your own ability to reason and your own individuality when you become part of a group. Religion is a great jumping-off point for thinking about how to live, period."