Michael Stipe has made history by releasing his song “Future If Future” on the first commercially available bioplastic 12-inch vinyl. It serves as a proof of concept that fossil fuel-free vinyl can be manufactured on the existing machinery at record pressing plants.
Produced by Brian Eno, the jittery track is part of a split vinyl with Beatie Wolfe’s “Oh My Heart.” Eno’s environmental charity EarthPercent has already sold out the limited run of 500 copies via Bandcamp. Both tracks are still available digitally as part of a wider-ranging Earth Day charity album also featuring songs from Peter Gabriel, Big Thief, Hot Chip, and more.
Stipe first previewed “Future If Future” on social media in support of the 2018 March for Our Lives protest for stricter gun laws. “Future, If Future, this future is ours,” he sings on the track. “Stunk to high heaven lotus, nerve gas or flowers/ We’ve got the obvious, we’ve got the power/ Please don’t stare, we’re doing all we can.” Revisit the teaser clip below.
British music sustainability organization Evolution Music designed the vinyl to show it was possible to replace polyvinyl chloride — which Greenpeace calls the “most environmentally damaging” plastic — in the record manufacturing process.
“I’m thrilled to be working with EarthPercent and Evolution Music on this release, imagining positive innovation through action,” said Stipe in a statement. “Simply showing that this type of solution-based project is possible opens pathways to a brighter future.”
Wolfe added, “It’s been fantastic to join forces with EarthPercent on the environmental front and for this very special release with Michael Stipe. I’m constantly thinking about how we can take the best of the old and best of the new, bridge the tangible and digital, and reclaim as much as we innovate and this new eco vinyl feels like a perfect embodiment of this.”
Having put any notions of an R.E.M. reunion to rest, Stipe has been focusing on solo music over the past several years. This has included 2020’s “Drive to the Ocean” and “No Time for Love Like Now,” along with a cover of “Sunday Morning” that appeared on a Velvet Underground & Nico tribute album that dropped last year. In March, he appeared on Mykki Blanco’s “Family Ties.”
Be sure to revisit Stipe and R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills’ conversation with Kyle Meredith about the 25th anniversary of the band’s album New Adventures in Hi-Fi.