Steven Page Is at Peace with Himself and His Former Barenaked Mates on 'Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II'

Steven Page Is at Peace with Himself and His Former Barenaked Mates on 'Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II'
Photo: David Bergman
For more than 20 years, Steven Page was that recognizable baritone leading the way for Canada's most affable group, Barenaked Ladies. But after a highly publicized run-in with the law in 2009, Page left the band and went out on his own, building a successful solo career.
While recording his new LP, Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II, however, Page received what many felt was a long overdue invitation: to reunite with his old band. This past March, Barenaked Ladies were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a feat that was commemorated with a televised performance at the Juno Awards. Page says once they finally got into a room together, it was just like the good old days.
"I think at first we were all nervous and second-guessing what the other guy would be like," Page tells Exclaim! from his home in Syracuse, NY. "We hadn't really been in a room together for nine years. I don't know what baggage they bring into the room, I just know myself. And there was a sense of anxiety, like 'Will we have any connection after all this time?' But we did, and instantly there were lots of jokes and laughing. Picking up the guitar and playing together was like it was years ago. It was super natural. It was fun."
Seeing the Ladies run through a handful of their biggest hits was a memorable moment, but that one night appears to be it for Page and the band he co-founded in 1988.
"It's honestly the only thing we talked about," he admits. "I'm not sure how those guys feel about it. I don't think anybody wants there to be any kind of permanent reunion, but I feel like we've got so much stuff in common it would be fun to do. Whether it's a benefit show or a tour, I'd be open to something in the future, but I know both parties are booked for the next year solid. I can't imagine getting back with the band and making that my gig though."
For now, Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II has Page playing solo gigs into May 2019. The new album is a sequel to his 2016 release, Heal Thyself, Pt. I: Instinct, which he originally planned as a double album.
"Initially I thought it would be one record with 30 songs, but then I thought, 'That's a lot of songs,'" Page explains. "When you put a record out, there is no guarantee that it's not just gonna disappear the next week. It's a hard thing to reconcile, dumping all of those songs down the toilet all at once. But I then thought, 'How arrogant is that of me to think my audience would want to digest all of that music all at once?' So I thought about splitting it into two halves that would complement each other."
When Page went back to the songs he had already planned to use, he quickly realized his vision had changed. "Of course, over those two years between the albums, I finally found some time to go in and finish it off, only to discover that some songs didn't fit any more," he says. "So then I found myself writing a bunch of new songs, and so it quickly became a very different record."
Discipline certainly has its differences. For instance, songs like "White Noise" and "You Fucked Yourself" find the man behind such family friendly songs as "If I Had $1000000" and "One Week" letting his potty mouth do the singing.
"The last album also had a parental advisory sticker, and my kid said to me, 'Oh, so this is where Dad swears!'" he explains with a laugh. "It's part of the discourse now. It's part of the language. It's how I speak if I need the emphatic quality. Whether it's out of rage at myself, or the world around me, it's just a matter of sounding colloquial sometimes. You don't have to be afraid of language. There are far more injurious words out there than 'fuck' and 'shit.'"
Discipline: Heal Thyself Pt. II comes out September 14 on Fresh Baked Goods/Warner Music Canada.