R.E.M. recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their classic album Out of Time with an expansive reissue. Over the weekend, frontman Michael Stipe and bassist Mike Mills reunited for a rare interview on Sunday TODAY.
Sitting down inside New York City’s Iroquois Hotel — a spot where the band often slept five to a room in their early days — the musicians discussed how they went from living off $1 knishes to Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. “I wanted to write a song about unrequited love and about desire,” Stipe said of “Losing My Religion”, the track that catapulted R.E.M. to megastardom. “I had not written love songs up to that point, so this was me stepping into what I consider to be the most clichéd of pop songs.” He went on to give insight into his songwriting process, saying that he has to “see” a song before he writes it.
Stipe touched upon how his life was different after the band broke big, and how it’s changed since their breakup. “I couldn’t go anywhere after [‘Losing My Religion’] became the huge hit single that it became around the world,” he said, joking that his nickname in the band used to be Face because he was so recognizable. Since the band’s split in 2011, he’s been able to live in relative anonymity, saying, “Now I can step out my front door and I have a beard and no one recognizes, no body even sees me!”. Sitting with Mills, he also discussed how “bone-screechingly” vulnerable revealing the process behind Out of Time makes him feel.
In a separate, web-only segment, Stipe talks about his favorite track on the record (“Country Feedback”) and how songs like “Shiny Happy People” and “Stand” were his attempts at writing music like The Monkees, The Archies, and The Banana Splits.