R.E.M. were an alternative rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, United States in 1980. The band originally consisted of Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar, mandolin), Mike Mills (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Bill Berry (drums). Berry retired from the band in October 1997 after having suffered a brain aneurysm in 1995.
R.E.M. released its first single, 'Radio Free Europe', in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. The single was followed by the Chronic Town EP in 1982, the band's first release on I.R.S. Records. In 1983, the group released its critically acclaimed debut album, Murmur, and built its reputation over the next few years through subsequent releases, constant touring, and the support of college radio. Following years of underground success, R.E.M. achieved a mainstream hit in 1987 with the single 'The One I Love'. The group signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1988, and began to espouse political and environmental concerns while playing large arenas worldwide.
By the early 1990s, when alternative rock began to experience broad mainstream success, R.E.M. was viewed as a pioneer of the genre and released its two most commercially successful albums, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992), which veered from the band's established sound. R.E.M.'s 1994 release, Monster, was a return to a more rock-oriented sound. The band began its first tour in six years to support the album; the tour was marred by medical emergencies suffered by three band members. In 1996, R.E.M. re-signed with Warner Bros. for a reported US$80 million, at the time the most expensive recording contract in history. The following year, Bill Berry left the band, while Buck, Mills, and Stipe continued the group as a three-piece. Through some changes in musical style, the band continued its career into the next decade with mixed critical and commercial success. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Work on the group's fourteenth album commenced in early 2007. The band recorded with producer Jacknife Lee in Vancouver and Dublin, where it played five nights in the Olympia Theatre between June 30 and July 5 as part of a 'working rehearsal'. R.E.M. Live, the band's first live album (featuring songs from a 2005 Dublin show), was released in October 2007. The group followed this with the 2009 live album Live at The Olympia, which features performances from their 2005 residency. R.E.M. released Accelerate in early 2008. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard charts, and became the band's eighth album to top the British album charts. Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke considered Accelerate an improvement over the band's previous post-Berry albums, calling it "one of the best records R.E.M. have ever made."
In 2010, R.E.M. released the video album R.E.M. Live from Austin, TX-a concert recorded for Austin City Limits in 2008. The group recorded its fifteenth album, Collapse into Now (2011), with Jacknife Lee in locations including Berlin, Nashville, and New Orleans. For the album, the band aimed for a more expansive sound than the intentionally short and speedy approach implemented on Accelerate. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, becoming the group's tenth album to reach the top ten of the chart. This release fulfilled R.E.M.'s contractual obligations to Warner Bros., and they began recording material without a contract a few months later with the possible intention of self-releasing the work.
On September 21, 2011, the band announced via its website that it was 'calling it a day as a band'. Stipe said that he hoped their fans realized it 'wasn't an easy decision': 'All things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.' Long-time associate and former Warner Bros. Senior Vice President of Emerging Technology Ethan Kaplan has speculated that shake-ups at the record label influenced the group's decision to disband. The band members will finish their collaboration by assembling the compilation album Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, scheduled for release in November 2011. The album will be the first to collect songs from R.E.M.'s I.R.S. and Warner Bros. tenures, as well as the group's final studio recordings from post-Collapse into Now sessions.
On 21 September 2011, after over 30 years together, R.E.M. announced that they had split up.