By Kyle Anderson
Updated September 21, 2011 at 06:05 PM EDT
Joe Giron/Corbis

After over three decades and 15 studio albums together, R.E.M. have decided to call it quits.

In a statement posted to their official website, the band told fans that Collapse Into Now (which was released earlier this year) would be the last thing the band recorded as a unit.

“To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band,” the announcement said. “We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.”

The Athens, Georgia quartet (founded by singer Michael Stipe, drummer Bill Berry, bassist Mike Mills, and guitarist Peter Buck) soldiered on as a trio after Berry left the band in 1997 due to health problems.

All told, R.E.M. have sold over 25 million albums, amassed a bevy of awards, put out dozens of iconic music videos, and left behind a body of work that includes some of the most iconic songs of the end of the 20th century.

UPDATE: Stipe, Mills, and Buck each wrote their own individual comments about the break-up.

Mike Mills

“During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, ‘what next’? 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.

“We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this — there’s no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We’ve made this decision together, amicably and with each other’s best interests at heart. The time just feels right.”

Michael Stipe

“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.

“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.

“We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”

Peter Buck

“One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.

“Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it’s only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world.”

What’s your favorite R.E.M. song? Mourn the end of an era in the comments below.