Interview by Sarah Williams.
The Penske File are a melodic punk band from Burlington, Ontario, who recently visted the UK for a short run of gigs. We’re been enjoying their latest album Salvation since its release in April, however we were completely blown away by their live show in Manchester this week. They’re full of energy, enthusiasm, catchy melodies and memorable choruses.
We spoke to guitarist Travis Miles ahead of the tour about their new album, their motivations and their growth as a band.
Salvation is a very emotive album title. What are you seeking salvation from? Do you think you found it?
That’s a good question that I’m not sure I fully know the answer to and am doubtful I, or many of us, ever really will. I think in a sense that I am seeking salvation from the confining realities of my selfhood and how that is inevitably framed by the society in which we all live. Music is just a very freeing art form that has an ability to wash away the very real problems in our own lives and in our own communities, if only for a moment.
To me the closest I’ve ever been to a true feeling of salvation has come in those moments when music washes away my sense of the internal and external world and leaves me existing solely within a moment or a lyric or a melody.
So many bands and artists have provided me with this sort of experience over the years and I think our ultimate goal as a band is to hopefully pass those moments of real freedom along to people who enjoy our music.
I am absolutely in love with Kamikaze Kids and Come What May. Lyrically and thematically, it seems like a very positive album – was that a deliberate choice?
Thank you! Perhaps it was. I feel like a lot of the songs are born from a little bit of darkness within us, in spite of that I feel like we try to always string those feelings together with a hopeful thread, whether through a redeeming lyric or just a nice melody.
It’s been a while since we wrote these songs and the original visions of concepts tend to alter a bit once the thing is released and people portray their own feelings and experiences onto the songs. That the record is positive and optimistic seems to be a common opinion we hear from listeners, and it’s certainly a welcome one. There is so much misery and negativity in this world and in all of us that we’re more than pleased to put something out there that is seen as positive.
What inspires you most when you’re writing?
I think humans inspire me most of all in my writing. Whether it through personal relationships I’ve been a part of or emotions or interactions I observe in others I can always stumble into something the compels me to the page or the guitar.
I’m seriously excited that you’re coming to tour the UK this month! This is your first time in the UK, right?
Yeah, we’re really excited as well!
What part of the tour are you most excited for? I recommend that you sample different chip toppings in the around the country – it’s quite different in the North and the South.
Thanks for the tip! I’m excited about the unknown nature of touring in a new territory. There’s something thrilling about going to new places and not knowing exactly what to expect.
You’ve toured pretty heavily around North America. Where’s the most interesting place you’ve played?
There are so many places that have been quite interesting. To be completely frank, they all start to blend together at a certain point, aha! So there’s not really one location that stands out above a slew of others.
What was the first ever record you bought?
Most likely something by Backstreet Boys.
What sort of bands did you obsess over as a teenager, and how do you think that’s affected your outlook on music now?
There’s so many bands I totally dove into as a teenager. A lot of the records I loved when I was 16 I still love today. I would definitely say that the music I listened to as a teenager really refined the core of my musical taste, which hasn’t really changed much since then, but rather just evolved and welcomed new styles and influences with more of an open mind.
There’s a little flavour of country or Americana to what you do, as well as the sort of anthemic punk that’s made bands like The Flatliners so popular. What bands have inspired you most when developing The Penske File’s sound?
The three of us in the band have been best friends since we were just kids and our collective tastes are quite similar. I really love bands like Blink 182, Against Me!, Gaslight Anthem, The Flatliners, Frank Turner, The Hold Steady, Lawrence Arms and so many more when I was in my teens and a lot of those groups are still my very favourites to this day.
This is the follow-up to 2015’s Burn Into The Earth. How do you feel the band has developed since then?
I feel like we’ve definitely grown up a lot. I feel like musically we really strived to just improve on all fronts, especially in our song writing. I also feel like we’ve gotten a little bit better at being on the road for half of the year, aha. We do a little better at pacing ourselves and treating our bodies well now. Although it can still be a struggle at times, it’s a struggle I don’t think any of us would trade for the world.
You based in Burlington, Ontario. Canada’s got some impressive punk exports – what’s the music scene like local to you?
When we were growing up we caught the tail end of a really really cool local scene in Burlington. There was packed all ages shows almost every weekend and a lot of bands to really look up to. These days it’s very different; there’s no real all ages scene, at least that I’m aware of, but a lot of us who grew up in that time still kick around in bands and play together in town from time to time. There’s a lot of really great talent that comes out of our city still, but just not as much going on as there used to be.
In your time as The Penske File, what’s been your proudest moment?
Anytime we’ve been able to fill a room with smiling, sweating faces with our music.