Michael Stipe has announced in a message posted to xoJane.com that he is at an Athens, Georgia recording studio working on a new R.E.M. album. Stipe, who is friends with site founder Jane Pratt – the woman behind the late, lamented Sassy magazine – has been sending real-time updates to her phone that have been shared on the site.
As of yet, no details have been released regarding R.E.M.’s latest project. The group released their most recent album, Collapse Into Now, back in March. That set happened to be the last record of their contract with Warner Bros. Records, the label that has put out all of their albums since Green in 1988. The band could be planning to self-release an album like their peers in Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam and Wilco, or they may end up going in the direction of Sonic Youth, who found a new home at Matador Records following a long term major label contract with Geffen. “We have the option of doing anything we want — and no pressure to do anything,” bassist Mike Mills told Rolling Stone earlier this year.
R.E.M.’s decision to jump into the studio so soon after the release of Collapse Into Now may shed some light on why the group chose not to tour for the record. “We don’t tour to prop up records — that’s not why we play live music,” Mills said. “That’s the thing about R.E.M. If we don’t feel it, we don’t go.” This certainly wouldn’t be the first time the group have opted to keep writing and recording rather than hit the road. Back in the Nineties, they declined to tour for Out of Time and Automatic For the People, two of their most commercially successful albums.