After 31 years, what makes a band decide to go separate ways? For REM, it’s pretty simple. “We're happy. But we're done,” bassist Mike Mills tells Rolling Stone. Or, as singer Michael Stipe put it: “A wise man once said, ‘The skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.'" In short, “it's not because we have to or we can't stand each other or we suck,” Mills notes.
The band had discussed breaking up as far back as 2008, and Stipe, Mills, and guitarist Peter Buck made their decision several months ago. But for the rest of the world—including the head of their record label—the news was a big surprise. “I can't believe they're breaking up, but I understand," says the chair of Warner Bros. Records. "They're too pure, too respectful of their own thing." Curious fans can, however, find hints of the coming split in the song “All the Best,” from their last album. “There are some straightforward see-you-laters on that one,” says Mills. (Read more REM stories.)