Track-by-Track: The Penske File

Following our review of their brilliant new record Salvation, we asked The Penske File to take us through each of the tracks on the record…

Kamikaze Kids 
The first verse in Kamikaze Kids was written while we were on tour in Europe for the first time. I was on FaceTime with a close friend whom I had grown up with. I had been gone quite a bit that year, so I was being caught up on the crazy stories from home and vise versa. I thought Kamikaze Kids was a funny way of describing our collective of buds from back home, and the exchange of our adventures is what planted the roots for this tune. (Alex Standen)

Golden Futures (Forgotten Pasts)
I forget exactly when or how this song came into my head, but I do recall it started with the opening lyrics, “Do you numb the pain with red wine, do you tell yourself that everything is fine?” And I do recall writing this while quite hungover. On the surface it is a song about finding distractions from the darker realities of life, but if you dig a bit deeper there is a positive sentiment that lays dormant within the chorus, suggesting that in some of those distractions one can find bliss and meaning that is very real and very special. At it’s most optimistic, this song is about the moments that occur from time to time that exist with such pronounced positive gusto that you feel like you’ve lived enough and are just as happy to cease to be the next moment over. (Travis Miles)

Lakeshore is a song riddled with imagery of my youth. The song is largely about revisiting childhood haunts as an adult. It’s about how physical changes of our hometown can often reflect vast emotional changes in ourselves and how even the landmarks that have remained the same seem to look so different years later. It’s also, in a sense, about how blessed we feel to be able to look back on our formative years with fondness. (Travis Miles)

Spin My History 
Having the privilege to watch a grandparent grow old is a beautiful thing but can also have some pretty dark moments. Spin My History was written about both the beautiful and the dark, and the feelings incurred after watching and listening to my Grandmother of 98 years old, describe her past years and where she is now. “The doctors ain’t what they used to be,” is something she would say to me constantly along with,  “I can still go down the basement stairs”. I think I wrote the chorus first in this song, after different speeches she would give me every time I’d visit. The speeches consisted basically of how thankful and blessed she is to see 98, and how death is all part of the ride. (Alex Standen)

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. (Travis Miles)

American Basements
I feel like there’s a unique culture of house shows that exists in the States that doesn’t exist to the same degree in other parts of the world. Over the last few years we’ve played a lot of these shows in the midwest and northeastern parts of the US and have made a lot of true friends and memories through those experiences. Specifically, the lyrics to this song were inspired by a house show we played in Columbus a couple years back at a place called The House with No Name. It was a variety show of sorts with bands, solo artists and poets. It seemed to me like a very special gathering of disenfranchised youth who were expressing themselves honestly and freely through different formats in a safe and very alternative space that did a very good job existing outside of the traditional North American societal paradigm. I wrote a few verses about the evening shortly after the show whilst we were still on tour, at the same time, unknowingly, Alex was working a part inspired by the same evening, which ended up being the chorus of the song. During a day off on that tour, the three of us were camping and playing acoustic around the fire and through an inebriated collaboration we melded mine and Alex’s ideas together and formed the skeleton of what this song would become. (Travis Miles)

Last Chance
This is likely the oldest song off the new record. I remember working very long hours at an old job in the winter of 2015, around the time that Burn into the Earth was being mixed. During some down time at said job I began working on the lyrics to this song, which I feel may be some of the more straight forward and personal lyrics I’ve written. The song existed with a lot of different parts and in a lot of different formats before coming to be what it is on the record. The song is largely about an internal struggle with my ambitions and desires and a ramble that poses the internal question, am I a homesick traveller or a restless homebody? Something that can be very hard to decipher when you spend half of your year travelling and have a lot of people you love continuing to live their lives at home. (Travis Miles)

Come What May 
Come What May is what my ex said to me after a heated conversation one time. The tune explores the pushing and pulling of a relationship. Being forced to choose certain things and trying to balance others. At the time, I felt like I was a mouse on the wheel, running in circles. Relationship during the week, then party on weekends where the relationship would blow up. It was a constant battle and that’s where this tune came from. (Alex Standen)

Yesterday’s Getaway
The idea for this song was originally sparked by an excerpt from a book I was reading at the time, Jack Kerouac’s, Vanity of Dulouz. I can’t recall the exact quote or context, but the author was essentially describing an outdoor swimming spot he and his childhood friends used to go to to hang out and mess around. Nearing the end of the description he leaves the reader with the following, “and when we drove back we were drunk and we were sick.” It seemed liked such a sad note to end on such a happy recollection, but at the same time, for that reason, elicited such real feelings and memories within me. I immediately put down the book and started writing the lyrics to this song which is essentially my best attempt at painting a portrait of what goes on inside my head as we drive out of a town after a show that turns into an all nighter. It has a lot to do with how truly weird it is to go from feeling triumphant and blissful and then sleeping for four hours and waking up entirely anxious and lethargic. (Travis Miles)

Young & Worthless
This is another older song, written around the same time as Last Chance. The verses are essentially a chapter in verbal, emotional exile. That is to say, an exercise in extracting the negative thoughts amassing in my head and encouraging them to live elsewhere. In this case on the page and now in the song. It’s about feeling overwhelmed with heavy questions most of the time and the ways in which I, and a lot of us I would guess, attempt to deal with that weight. (Travis Miles)

Blessed Unrest
We really wanted to have a no-brainer final track to this record. One that sonically acted as a definite conclusion. The ideas in this song definitely evolved over time and I feel like the lyrics were changed a lot to fit the finality of the sonic elements. At its core this song is about being confused, frustrated, disenfranchised and at the same time realizing that there is so much good in this world and to be experienced in this short life. It’s about making a conscious decision to pursue the good things in life while you can. “We could dance ‘till we’re great and our bones fall apart” (Travis Miles)

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