The Penske File have been playing their own brand of folk-tinged punk rock together for more than half their lives. Which is a quite a feat considering that they are all, just now, collectively entering their mid 20s. Growing up together in suburban Burlington, Ontario, James Hall, Travis Miles & Alexander Standen have been through a lot together. Salvation, their latest offering, was recorded off the floor by Steve Rizun (The Flatliners, Nothington) at Drive Studios to capture the raw, explosive energy that The Penske File is best know for. Through the course of the 11 new songs, Salvation immediately reveals itself as the band’s most ambitious and honest effort to date. Coaxing the listener through emotive hills and valleys, the record finds the band maintaining their infectious and driving signature sound while building on it immensely. For Fans of: Against Me!, The Dirty Nil, The Gaslight Anthem, The Flatliners, Menzingers
J.B: Okay so let’s start from the beginning I have seen you guys more times than I can count from The Red Rooster to Club Absinthe now you guys have a couple studio releases under you yet you still remain grounded. Is there a secret pact or truth to staying true your roots and never forgetting where your from?
P.F:We all grew up as best friends in the Burlington/Hamilton area and still all call it home. We went to our first shows and played our first shows in the area and just have so many friends and family still around here. We definitely feel blessed to call it home and I don’t think that will change no matter what we manage to achieve as a band.
J.B: Kamazie kids has that summer good time feel to it with that is reminiscent of The Flatliners but could totally be an indie music score?
P.F: Hey, thanks a lot! We definitely put a lot into that song and are very pleased with how it turned out!
J.B: Your sound on this album is organic and has an almost analog feel to it that portrays what you guys are all about live? Was it intended to be recorded that way?
P.F: We definitely wanted to capture the organic essence of our sound and something that is true to our live show. We tracked mostly all the instruments live save for some extra guitars, aux. percussion and instruments and all the vocals that were overdubbed after the fact. We had more studio time booked this go around, so we were able to make changes to things in studio which was nice. We also spent a lot of time after recording the album mixing and remixing the record and are all very happy with what we’ve come out with as a final product.
J.B: This release “Salvation” follows up from “Burn into the Earth” which also has that Metaphoric meaning so what’s in the title “Salvation”?
P.F: We wanted to have a one word album name that was a good representation of the themes on the record. And something hopeful to highlight the not always present optimistic side of the record. Salvation just worked for all of us and we stuck with it.
J.B: Lakeshore pays homage to the massive development of growing up around the G.T.A do you find it harder with younger families being pushed out by gentrification? So many things have changed so many of things we grew up to like the Ma and Pa stores are all but gone now?
P.F: It’s definitely tough for young families to afford anything in the area these days, real estate is crazy in the GTA, that’s for sure. This song is less about that specifically and more about revisiting childhood haunts as an adult. It’s about how the physical changes of our hometowns often reflect vast emotional changes in ourselves and how even the landmarks that have remained the same seem to look and feel so different years later.
J.B: Most of this album is a carried rhythm feel good mid tempo style but you’ve seem to have lost the feel of your sound on this one with the incorporation of the acoustics and harmonica? Well except for American Basements of course such a good song.
P.F: Thanks! Yeah it wasn’t a conscious decision of any sort. We didn’t go into the writing or recording of the album with scaling these elements back in mind. We just wanted to service the songs as best we could and feel like less songs called for that sort of instrumentation this go around.
J.B: Fairgrounds is one my favorite on the tracks that has that personal feel with the lyrical content but you guys have always been known for your creative writing style. What was the creative lyrical writing like on this one was it crafted on a journey?
P.F: This song was built off a lyric I wrote down a long time ago, which ended up being the opening lyric on the track. A couple years back I was chilling at home on a regular Sunday and my wonderful partner Amanda was sleeping and she just seemed to me, to represent everything that was peaceful and content in the world. I scratched down, “the clock hands sit still in the moments between your breaths,” in my notebook. The lyric eventually changed to “the clock hands sit still in the moments between breath,” and the song went on to carry a broader meaning from that original personal sentiment. If there was an optimistic mission statement amidst the record this song would probably be it. On the whole, ‘Fairgrounds’ is about finding the things that make our numbered days seem innumerable, it’s about the moments we encounter that make us forget moments themselves exist. Whether through our relationships with other humans or with the world as it appears around us. It’s about finding the things that make you truly live in the present, without protest, and cherishing them. It’s about pursuing the things you love with the people you love relentlessly, ultimately striving to step out of the societal paradigm and into your own happiness.
J.B: You guys did that acoustic set at Pouzza last year that was really intimate any plans of perhaps a show like that here in Hamilton or Toronto?
P.F: No plans at the moment, but it is definitely something we’re open to. Almost all of songs start off as intimate acoustic ditties and we get to have fun with when we have the chance to play them that way live.
J.B: You also had a fill in for that because you had a member down that was off doing his thing?
P.F: Haha, it may have seemed that way because we were all pretty inebriated, but we were all there. We didn't really rehearse or anything for that acoustic set and frankly we didn't really think anyone would show up as we were slotted at the same time as Pup. We were wrong and the room was full, so it just ended up being a really fun and improvised, off the cuff kind of thing.
(I may or may not have been able to focus and adjust my beer vision at that moment in time J.B)
J.B: You guys have the best covers on the albums where did the cover photo for Salvation come from it looks like an oldschool jeep Cheroke?
P.F: This kind of elaborates on the earlier question of the decision of calling the album Salvation. We had a bunch of potential album names kicking around and they all seemed to long and wordy. We wanted something more simple and ambiguous as I mentioned above. At the same time of this deliberation we were contemplating the art direction for the album. I stumbled across a photo a friend of our, Kyle Fisher, took. The photo had a seemingly abandoned car with deflated tires sitting in the middle of the desert and the car had ‘Salvation’ painted across the body. I thought the hopefulness of the word set against the bleak backdrop and context of the photo stirred up emotions similar to those emotions that served as a launch pad for a lot of these songs. We all looked at it and agreed it just seemed aesthetically and conceptually very fitting.
J.B: So let’s talk about the studio process because I mentioned how organic sounding this is almost analog how was the studio setting down at Drive Studio’s?
P.F: Recording at Drive was great. As I mentioned before we tracked most things together, live. It’s just a really relaxed atmosphere and although we were very focused and putting in long ass days, we laughed our way through the whole two-week process.
J.B: You guys have always been open to helping out bands be it equipment or a place to crash and met a lot of people along the way is there any of those bands that influenced the sound and direction of “Salvation”?
P.F: We are influenced by so much music I don’t know if I can pin point any specific artists that informed the sound on this record. I think it’s just a fairly decent representation of an amalgamation of all of our tastes.
J.B: What’s next for The Penske File besides so more extensive touring?
P.F: We’re really, really excited to get Salvation out into the world finally. And even more excited to get to start playing these songs live all over the map. Besides from tons of touring I know we have an acoustic EP we recorded of songs that we wrote during the Salvation sessions but didn’t have the time or money to record full band. We will probably finish that up and put it out at some point. Other than that we’ll likely just continue writing songs for the next record
J.B: We always end with a famous book or quote that inspired your life anything come to mind?
P.F: For a long time I wanted to put this quote in the liner notes of Salvation, opening up the lyrics section,
but I just totally forgot about it until now. “The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time. This is a moment:” Thomas Wolfe, from his novel, “Look Homeward Angel.”