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R.E.M. Will Revisit ‘Early Days’ On Summer Tour

After delighting fans with rarities such as “Second Guessing” and “Animal” at its performances thus far this year, R.E.M. is promising to dig further into its vaults for its return to the road on May 23rd.

“[For] the last Dublin shows [in June and July 2007], we went back and learned a whole bunch of stuff from the early days we hadn’t played in a long time, just to see where we came from, and it was pretty inspiring to play those,” guitarist Peter Buck said.

Regarding upcoming dates, Buck says, “We’re obviously going to play the new record [‘Accelerate’]; we’ve been playing nine songs off it, which is 28 minutes or something, so there’s a lot of space for us to do stuff from all through our career.”

The early material the band has been dipping into is in keeping with the harder-rocking nature of “Accelerate,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 (and No. 1 in the U.K.) in April. Buck says that playing songs from 2004’s commercially disappointing “Around the Sun” live, in fact, helped steer the direction of the new set.

“I think Mike [Mills] particularly was saying, ‘God, I wish we could get back and record [‘Around the Sun’] right now,'” Buck recalls. “I had no interest in making another record the way we’d been working — book eight months in a studio and see what happens. I never liked that. I always complained and I always suggested that we work quicker and more spontaneously. The other guys [Mills and frontman Michael Stipe] weren’t into it.

“I think maybe the reception [‘Around the Sun’] got kind of shocked them and made them realize … I was right, we can’t work like this any longer.”

And if Buck has his way, R.E.M. will never take the long, exacting route again.

“I can’t imagine ever going back to the way we were working prior [to] this,” says the guitarist, who already has “a ton of songs” written for R.E.M.’s next album. “I think everyone agrees that this record is really a strong record and it’s strong because of the way we approached it. So when we start making the next record, I think this is the way to at least start doing it.”

R.E.M. plays in North America — including the Sasquatch! Music Festival in Quincy, Wash. — until late June and will spend the summer in Europe starting in early July. The group’s “Austin City Limits” episode debuts on May 24 on PBS outlets.