The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group announced on its website Wednesday that it has "decided to call it a day as a band."
"A wise man once said — 'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it," frontman Michael Stipe said in a statement on the website.
"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way."
The group, composed of Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills, released its debut album "Murmur" in 1983; at the time it was a quartet, with drummer Bill Berry. He left the group in 1997, two years after he suffered symptoms of an aneurysm onstage.
The group got its start in Athens, Ga., coming out of a flourishing indie-rock scene in the region. It's credited for helping launch college radio with songs such as "Radio Free Europe." Later, the mainstream caught on, and they became chart-topping rockers, selling millions of albums with hits like "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," ''Losing My Religion" and "Everybody Hurts."
Even though their hits dwindled over the years, the band continued to create music; the group's last album, "Collapse into Now," was released in March.
But Mills said the band was running out of ideas.
"During our last tour, and while making 'Collapse Into Now' and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'What next?'" he said. "Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together."
Warner Bros. Records chairman and producer Rob Cavallo said, "To call R.E.M. one of the greatest bands in contemporary music is an understatement. They leave behind a body of work whose breadth, honesty, creativity and power has not only inspired millions of fans around the world, but also has influenced — and will continue to influence — generations of songwriters and performers for years to come."
Warner Bros. Records is releasing the group's greatest hits retrospective in November.