Two years ago, R.E.M. was playing parties and clubs in their hometown of Athens, Ga. A lot has happened to them since then. They've toured up and down the East Coast landing the opening slot for the Gang Of Four Tour and won unanimous praise from critics around the country.
Several record labels had been interested in the group, but it was finally I.R.S. Records who inked them to a recording deal this past May.
Lead singer Michael Stipe talks about R.E.M.
Q: How far away is Athens from Macon and Atlanta, and is Athens known for being a musical city?
A: It's real far away from Macon, and it's about 60 miles from Atlanta. Athens is a college town, so I guess you could call it musical. There's a lot of young people there.
Q: Is this the first group for all of you guys?
A: We had all been in garage type bands before, but this was the first band we sat down in and wrote songs, or actually went to a club and actually got paid to get up there and sing.
Q: You've just returned from a West Coast tour. How did the crowds respond to R.E.M.?
A: Real good, considering how unknown we are. The reaction was real good. We just played small clubs, and had a good time.
Q: There must be quite a few groups out there who would've loved to open a Gang Of Four Tour. Why were you finally selected?
A: We're real compatible with them. We played with them over a year ago on a little jaunt they did up the East Coast.
They're really a tremendous band.
Q: What does it mean to the band career-wise when critics praise your records?
A: It makes it easier for us to play more out of the way places. It pretty much got us to the West Coast.
Q: Pete Townshend has stated, "There is nothing that has ever come close to rock for people to express their joy and frustration. Has he got a point there?
A: No. I don’t know, it's a real subjective thing. Maybe for Pete Townshend it's real great. It's a real subjective thing.
Q: Why did you pick the name R.E.M. for the group?
A: We didn't want to be easily categorized as a pop group, if say we had called ourselves The Knack. We didn't want to be able to be easily categorized in the beginning.
Q: Without putting. labels on the music the group performs, is there a type of music a person would be able to identify the group with?
A: Probably the closest would be folk-rock. We're real passionate about what we do,
Q: How much does your state of mind affect the evening's performance? Can you forget your troubles for the time you're onstage?
A: Yeah, that's pretty much the one redeeming thing about all the mix-ups you have to go through on the road.