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Bringing back punk energy: Interview with Travis Miles of The Penske File

The Penske File’s latest album 'Half Glow' covers all the tenets of pop-punk with live-show intensity.

Though the enigmatic Penske file on the sitcom Seinfeld becomes George Costanza’s excuse to avoid work, the alternative punk-rock band of the same name has been working hard crafting their latest album, Half Glow. The Gateway sat down with Travis Miles, the guitarist and singer of Brantford’s The Penske File, to talk about the band’s latest release. 

The Penske File’s new album comes after a five-year break from releasing music, following Salvation in 2018. Miles said that the group has been through a lot together. He has been friends with both the drummer Alex Standen and the bassist James Hall since childhood. 

“Alex[‘s] dad and my dad were pals since grade seven, so I’ve known him my entire life. And James moved across the street from me when we were about four years old and my mom babysat him. We started playing music together when we were 12 or 13.”

The trio initially performed as a ska band called The Bad Names. But, they eventually moved on to the classic pop-punk sound they are now known for. To commemorate this new chapter, they decided to change the band name.

Miles explained that the band picked the name from a list because they were all Seinfeld fans. He said that “The Penske File was the name we disagreed on the least.” Those who have tried to come up with a band name will understand the struggle.

Miles said that the band’s primary musical influences have expanded as the group has developed. He noted that “listening to a lot of Canadian music somehow informs our unique place within the punk-rock world.” Punk-rock bands like The Flatliners, Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem, and The Menzingers will always be the “ground zero” influences for the band. However, other groups have also filtered into their musical process. 

“When … we’re driving we are just as likely to listen to Brandi Carlile or Jason Isbell. Some country stuff, folk music, or Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, classic rock. It’s kinda all over the map.”

The driving drum beat asserts the band’s punk energy throughout the album. Catchy choruses on songs like “Bad Dreams” were made to be shouted in the middle of the pit during a live show. Iconic pop-punk guitar riffs that you can dance along to sing through the heavy drums in “Cyanide Stories” and “Will We Ever Know.”

Regarding songwriting, Miles said that the process is always different for each song. Miles writes outside of music as well, mentioning his poetry. He usually comes up with words attached to a melody first and continues to work on the song from there. Although he and Standen, who usually write the songs, do work on things independently, “everyone contributes a lot in the writing room once either myself or Alex presents a song,” Miles said. 

When asked about his favourite song on this latest release, Miles said that he is proud of and “truly like[s] every single song on the record.” If he had to pick one, he would choose “Ride it Out,” which Standen wrote.

“One of Alex’s songs is usually one of my favourites on the record because it’s coming from somebody else. So while I’m also in the band, I can still appreciate it as a fan of his songwriting.”

These punk-centred songs fit in with the resurgence of rock music that is influencing many popular artists. Miles said one of the band’s mentors told them “everything works in cycles.” Sure enough, riff-heavy songs from the likes of Olivia Rodrigo and Machine Gun Kelly have started to dominate the radio waves. 

“I like the fact that there is guitar and bass music back in the mainstream. I think it’s pretty cool.”

With this kind of music comes the unique energy of punk-rock crowds, which The Penske File got to experience at The Fest in Gainesville, Florida. This festival features mid-level musicians from around the world in the same niche genre as The Penske File.

Miles said this was one of his favourite shows the band has ever played. The chaotic energy inspired them, with crowd surfers and pool noodles, while everyone sang along. “Everybody was having the best time [and] it was such a celebratory atmosphere.”

Miles hopes that listeners “enjoy and connect” with Half Glow, and that “it helps them through the drudgery of the day to day.” If you want to escape for a night into the lively atmosphere of punk music with The Penske File, you can purchase tickets for their upcoming show on October 12 at The Buckingham.

Katie O'Connor

Katie O’Connor was the 2023-2024 Managing Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as the 2022-23 Deputy Arts & Culture Editor. She is in her fourth year studying English and art history. Katie attends every concert that she can, and spends most of her free time traveling, writing, or reading with a cat on her lap.

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