Vampire Weekend are a group that, throughout their career, has pulled inspiration from a variety of sources. From using instruments that aren’t common to their cherished indie rock, all the way to taking influence and samples from far-flung genres, they’ve become a collection of all kinds of knowledge from across the industry.
This being said, it’s no surprise that one of their most classic, fan favourite tunes is actually inspired by a song from another genre entirely. Some people have found themselves puzzled over the phrasing and the lyrics of their 2013 track, ‘Step’, from their album Modern Vampires of the City. The song opens with the notorious lyrics, “Every time I see you in the world, you always step to my girl.”
One thing that many people don’t know about this song is that Ezra Koenig, the talented lyricist that he is, didn’t write them. In fact, they’re sampled—along with other lyrics of the song—from Souls of Mischief’s 1998 song, ‘Step to My Girl’.
When you listen to both songs, it becomes relatively obvious, but plenty of fans simply don’t know to dig. When asked about the original song, Tajai of Souls of Mischief said, “We recorded that song when we were still in high school; I was probably 15 or 16. The YZ sample [from ‘Who’s That Girl?’] of him saying, ‘Every time I see you in the world, you always step to my girl,’ was really the impetus behind it. The sample drove it. We were at the age where we were getting into serious relationships. We wanted to make a love song, but for it not to be sappy, so we added the ‘I’ll beat you up if you talk to my girlfriend’ aspect to it. We were kids. Literally.”
This is sort of adopted in the tone of the Vampire Weekend song, too. And it seems that this all blossomed out of the spirit of collaboration. When asked about being approached about using the sample, he said that Vampire Weekend, “Did it humbly. Let’s just say the correspondence wasn’t all corporate. When I finally heard ‘Step’, it was so good; I was just happy we were able to be part of that. I’ve heard so many terrible ’93’ Til Infinity’ remakes that it’s refreshing to hear something that is actually not a remake but is an ‘inspired by’.”
The kicker about the sampling, though? Souls of Mischief also sampled for ‘Step to My Girl’. They used Grover Washington Jr.’s saxophone cover of Bread’s 1973 single, ‘Aubrey’ in the song. This is why David Gates, founder of Bread, and songwriter of ‘Aubrey’ is also credited as a writer on the Vampire Weekend track.
Really, it’s a small world in terms of sampling and finding inspiration in the music industry, but it’s clear that ‘Step’ and ‘Step to My Girl’ share a collaborative effort and spirit, which is perhaps why it works so seamlessly—so much that some people can’t even tell that a sample ever took place.
If you want to hear the Souls of Mischief song that inspired Vampire Weekend, you can listen to ‘Step to My Girl’ down below. See if you can spot the similarities between the two tracks!