The album comprises five individual songs played back to back and recorded in one take. Although it was the middle of November and thus very cold, the recording was made outside on a screen porch in Maryland, using three SonyMiniDisc players with Sony ECM-MS907 microphones placed strategically around the band. Ambient sound from the surrounding area was also recorded on January 2002 and added later to "Queen in My Pictures" and "Moo Rah Rah Rain". The album was mixed at Avey Tare's apartment in Bushwick and later mastered with Nicolas Vernhes at Rare Book Room.
About the recording and the idea for this record, Panda Bear said in 2005:
We had had the idea of doing something really warm and inviting-sounding for a while, like three or four years at least. We wanted it to sound like a campfire feels and I think that also made us think of campfire songs that you can sing with a bunch of people and everybody gets connected and feels good and safe. It really wasn’t spontaneous or improvised [...]. We worked for a month or so to get it just right like the transitions between songs. I still think Queen Of My Pictures into Doggy is one of the best things we’ve done together. I was really excited about my singing on Campfire Songs, I guess because I felt like I was doing things that were difficult for me to do.
The three members of Animal Collective performing on this album are Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Deakin, who makes his debut appearance here. It is their only album featuring this lineup. Although member Geologist does not perform on the album, he was present for the recording to operate the MiniDisc players. At this point in time, despite the presence of all four original members, there was still no Animal Collective proper; the name Campfire Songs was intended to be the name of the band performing the album, as well as the name of the album itself. However, the band name 'Animal Collective' is used in the booklet from the latest copies of the album.
About one week before recording, they played the whole album live at Tonic in New York City, sitting in the middle of the floor while the audience surrounded them.
Campfire Songs is one of only three Animal Collective-related releases (the others being 2007's Strawberry Jam and 2012's Centipede Hz) to include a booklet with full lyrics.
The original Catsup Plate version of the album went out of print in 2008, and was reissued by Paw Tracks Records on January 26, 2010.