Will R.E.M. ever reunite? Michael Stipe says no way!

The Athens rock group closed shop in 2011.

The legendary Athens rock band R.E.M. will never get back together to tour or even make new music, lead singer Michael Stipe recently told a New York City radio station.

“We will never reunite,” he said to WNYC’s Alison Stewart. “We decided when we split up that that would just be really tacky and probably money-grabbing, which might be the impetus for a lot of bands to get back together. We don’t really need that, and I’m really happy that we just have the legacy of the 32 years of work that we have.”

The band broke up amicably in 2011 and the members of the band have gone their separate ways working on their own projects.

Given the popularity of the band in its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, there would be huge demand for a reunion tour and a massive payday for Stipe, Mike Mills, Bill Berry and Peter Buck. But that isn’t how any of the band members operate. (Berry left the band in 1997.)

As a reminder, the band’s Instagram page this week re-released its original break-up statement from 2011, which said, in part: “As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.”

The band, which formed in Athens in 1980, has sold more than 90 million albums worldwide, creating seminal hits over the years including “Losing My Religion,” “Man on the Moon,” “Radio Free Europe,” “The One I Love,” and “Everybody Hurts.” Three of their songs landed in the most recent Rolling Stone 500 greatest songs of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

The band has not toured since 2008, though they did reunite to play a private birthday party for their manager Bertis Downs in 2016.

Buck, in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2016, recalled that after their final tour date in 2008 in Mexico City, he said: “I went, ‘This is kind of sad. And Michael [Stipe] goes, ‘Yeah, a little. We’re probably never going to play these songs again.’ And I went, ‘You might be right.’”

He said there was no rancor in their decision to split in 2011 but they all had a similar attitude about it all. “We didn’t want to keep doing 20-year-old songs,” Buck told Rolling Stone. “One thing you might notice about the three of us: None of us has done anything to put us in the public eye. We do stuff, but we haven’t gone on talk shows, done reality TV or put together a supergroup.”

He simply hated the big label music business and continued to make music largely off the grid while helping manage the publishing rights of R.E.M. music, which still generates income for all of them.

Mills noted in 2011: “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. The time just feels right.”

About the Author

Editors' Picks