R.E.M. have finished their fifteenth studio album, called Collapse Into Now (due in early 2011) - so what can fans expect? According to multi-instrumentalist Mike Mills, a more "expansive" sound than on 2008's Accelerate and some special guests, including Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith, and Peaches!
"With Accelerate we were trying to make a point by making the songs as short and as fast as possible," Mills tells SPIN. "So we wanted this new one to be more expansive. We wanted to put more variety into it and not limit ourselves to any one type of song. There are some really slow, beautiful songs; there are some nice, mid-tempo ones; and then there are three or four rockers."
Mills adds that while Accelerate's lyrics were politically-inspired, Collapse Into Now is a "very personal, very human record. Not only to [singer] Michael [Stipe], but personal and human in the sense of the narrative of the songs, the protagonists of the songs."
The 12-track release - produced by Garret"Jacknife" Lee (Snow Patrol, U2), who plays alongside R.E.M.'s PeterBuck in alt-country supergroup Tired Pony - includes rocker "All the Best," and the album's closing song, "Blue," which features vocals from Patti Smith.
A yet-to-be-named song, which Mills promises will feature the word "alligator" in its title, features Peaches on vocals and Smith's longtime collaborator Lenny Kaye on guitar.
"It Happened Today" features Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder on vocals.
Another, "Walk It Back," was written during studio sessions in New Orleans, the product of the band's new approach to writing and recording. Instead of penning a batch of tunes and tracking them in a marathon session, R.E.M. scheduled sessions in different cities -- Berlin, Nashville, New Orleans -- with breaks between to write and rewrite songs.
"It's also fun for us to go to the cities we really love and spend some time," says Mills. After a day's work in the studio, the band would go out to dinner. "It's really important to go out, get great food, shrug off the debris of the day, and just be friends and have a good time. In Berlin you drink beer and eat wurst. In New Orleans you eat Cajun food and drink Sazerac. In Nashville we ate a lot of fried chicken."