By DAVE SCHWARTZ
On The Penske File’s self-titled EP, there is a song called Lifelessness – The Great Enemy that sings of “running on the fuel of campfires and sun-rays” and the joys of sunny, long days.
It’s a catchy, carefree song that completely masks the hardships and pain the band has handled.
Travis Miles, Chris Skinner, James Hall and Alex Standen, had played together in Burlington, Ont., punk bands since they were 12 years old. Towards the end of high school, Hall left the group and the other three reorganized themselves as The Penske File, a name Skinner thought of. But in June 2010, just as the childhood friends were about to graduate, Skinner tragically died.
“It was mayhem for all of us,” Miles says.
A month after Skinner’s death, a memorial concert was held to benefit a scholarship that had been created in his name. Hall joined Miles and Standen to play the show, reigniting the band’s spark.
“When we got together and jammed before that show, it felt right again,” Miles says, adding that playing in Skinner’s memory has been “a motivation for us to keep doing what we’ve always wanted to do.”
With the band back together, The Penske File embarked on what Miles calls “a year of frustration.”
“We were trying to map out our lives in unison,” he says.
“We each wanted to do different things and go different places, but we wanted to do it together so we could still concentrate on the band.”
The resulting compromise saw The Penske File relocate to St. Catharines at the start of 2012. The band played its “home opener” to a packed Mansion House in January. Miles compares the Niagara music scene favourably to the one he left behind in Burlington.
“There’s a pretty good music scene here, lots of live music going on all the time,” he says. “Honestly, Burlington right now is just dead. The market for live music, especially punk, is just so small these days.”
Miles says he caught the tail end of the once-vibrant Burlington punk scene, with bands like Boys Night Out and Jersey, as he was growing up, but today’s Burlington shows have turned mostly into a “19-plus thing.”
The Penske File’s name, as chosen by the late Skinner, is a Seinfeld reference meaning “the ability to appear extremely productive while doing nothing.” (Miles says all the band members are big fans of comedian Jerry Seinfeld.) Despite the name, the band actually was extremely productive during the past year, recording and releasing its EP last July, playing shows and even adding harmonica to its raw, punk sound. Miles credits the harmonica to an “extreme Bob Dylan obsession” he went through after high school.
Since moving to St. Catharines, Miles says The Penske File has been “recording and jamming like crazy,” with an upcoming three-song release coming soon. Miles has also begun the Journalism program at Niagara College’s Welland campus, where the band played Battle of the Bands 2012.
Miles says The Penske File is next looking at touring the rest of Canada. The next few months see the band play shows all over Ontario. Having played Montreal previously, the band plans on heading to Western Canada in August.
Sunny, long days indeed.
For more on The Penske File, visit them at www.facebook.com/ thepenskefile.
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