By Courtney E. Smith
Peter Buck and Mike Mills have been off exploring the world with their own music projects, but now we’re getting the first piece of solo work from R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe after the band’s dissolution. Surprisingly, it comes in the form of a wordless audio track created to score a piece of bonus footage.
Salon premieres the footage and song, which are accompaniment pieces to a new film from Stipe’s longtime friend and sometimes-collaborator Tom Gilroy. The pair worked together in 1990 on a series of PSAs called Direct Effect. This time, they’ve worked together on this bonus piece to his latest film, The Cold Lands.
Stipe tells Salon that the experience was new to him because he “wrote melodies and I tend to write along to other people’s music” but had never composed music on his own — so he collaborated with Andy LeMaster of Now It’s Overhead, a fellow Athens, Ga., musician, to help in case he got stuck. Stipe confirmed that he played keyboard and drums on the track, while LeMaster played bass.
“But this was more like an oral painting in a way because I didn’t have to use my voice,” Stipe said. “I didn’t have the pressure of writing a lyric or expressing a feeling or emotion through my voice. I could do it through instruments.”
As for why he chose not to sing, Stipe put it simply: “I just didn’t want to.”
Stipe hints at more projects to come, calling this his first, but backtracks, saying that his main interest at present is photography.
Listen to the full song over at Salon.