The first song to be lifted from The Killers fourth album, Battle Born, dates back to the late 2000s, when the band played it to an unenthusiastic audience in Santa Barbara, California. Undaunted by the lukewarm initial reactions, the band chose to develop and ultimately record the track. The song was released on July 10, 2012.
Explaining the album's title to Rolling Stone, frontman Brandon Flowers said that 'Battle Born' is both the name of the band's own studio and a nickname for their home state of Nevada. He added: "In a sense, all Americans are battle born. Our ancestors came here for something better."
The bare bones of this song were written in 2009 on the Day & Age tour. "We never knew what to do with it. Day and Age was us trying to be more of a pop group, but "Runaways" was rootsy and American, and it threw me for a curve," said Flowers. "I knew it was a powerful song. But when it came time to make the album, there was an understanding the four of us had that we were gonna do what we're good at. The Killers write a specific kind of song, and we're not gonna shy away from it. So 'Runaways' became a kind of launching pad."
The song is described in publicity materials as, "a small-town drama of epic-scale proportions."
The song's music video was helmed by up and coming director Warren Fu, who also designed the Battle Born artwork. The clip is mainly a performance one, but there are touches that relate to the album such as a scene where a long stretch of deserted highway suddenly becomes bright red, which ties into the record cover.
Ronnie Vannucci explained during a Spotify track-by-track how this became the "springboard" for Battle Born back in 2009. "Brandon had a chord sequence that we were playing with before a gig," he recalled. "The show was shi--y, so we retreated to work straight after and that's when we got the kernel of 'Runaways.' That was exciting, it got us in line. The direction felt right."
Brandon Flowers (from The Sun
: "Runaways is definitely a brother to 'When You Were Young
' and so that was nice — it's nice to feel those familiarities and it also gave us an idea of where we were headed on this record."
The song includes the line, "I got the tendency to slip k when the nights get wild." The Independent on Sunday asked Flowers if the lyric is storytelling, or autobiographical? "Ah-ha," the committed Mormon frontman replied. "Ah, you know it's… there's a little bit of me in [everything] – it's inevitable that I'm gonna creep my way into these songs. But I am also good at observing what's happening around me. And 'Runaways', that's not some grand statement that I'm here to make. But it is an observation of what I'm seeing every day, and living. I see just…There just seems to be a tough… it's not the coolest subject, I guess… It seems to be harder than ever for people to commit to each other."