And with that announcement Wednesday, 80’s college rock darlings cum 90’s alt-rock mainstream heroes cum 2000’s alt-rock elder statesmen have completed a 31-year run. The band members say the time was right to call it a day, as they evaluated their career while putting together a Greatest Hits album due this November.
"During our last tour, and while making "Collapse Into Now" and putting together this greatest hits retrospective; we started to ask ourselves 'what next?'," commented Mike Mills. "Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together. The time just feels right."
R.E.M. is unique in that they are very much still the group of friends from Athens, Georgia that they've been since the band formed in 1979. While their career has spanned 15 studio albums and huge global success, the band itself only ever comprised the four original members. The one person to leave this tight-knit group was drummer Bill Berry, who retired two years after suffering a brain aneurysm on-stage during 1995's "Monster" tour. But not before extracting a promise from his band mates that they would continue on as R.E.M.: "Bill insisted he would stay, if his leaving meant breaking the band up," remembers Michael Stipe.
Mills adds: "We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love and respect each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this -- there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart."
"A wise man once said -- 'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave," agrees Stipe. "We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it. I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end; and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way. We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years, our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing."
Buck picks up on his thoughts: "One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M., was the fact that the records we made and the songs we wrote, meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by them. Being a part of their lives has been an unbelievable gift.
"Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone that has followed and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of a club; watching a group of 19-year-olds trying to change the world."