Ryan Sambol of The Strange Boys Interview

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER NINETEENTH, POSTED OUT ON THE CORNER OF FRONT AND THOMPSON IN PHILLY, LEANING UP AGAINST EXTERIOR WALLS, ENCASED WITHIN WAS KUNG FU NECKTIE-JOCELYN AND I WAITED WITH THREE OTHER PEOPLE FOR THE DOORS TO OPEN. All the while, I’m thinking –“No, this can’t be, am I really gonna see The Strange Boys play in a place with only 5 people?” Well, no, not quite, the crowd showed up later, but still, no more than 50 folks.  This was my chance to redeem myself. The Strange Boys had come to town more than a couple times without me being there. I started listening to this band about four years ago. It was one of those amazing Youtube moments when you find the gold, feel its magic and rush into a sonic sea of excitement.  In fact, the first moments of me listening to The Strange Boys are so vivid in my head that I even remember what video it was and the name of the song. It was the one with them performing Probation Blues at The Smell in LA. I even remember that Ema from Ema and The Ghosts is the one who posted the video and that I would have never-EVER listened to The Strange Boys had I not been introduced to Ema’s cover of After Hours by The Velvet Underground and seen Probation Blues in the related videos column on the right. I was hooked like hook is to phonics.
It’s odd to meet someone who you have only heard in songs, seen in pictures or watched in videos. In your head, you go: “You’re real???, OF COURSE YOU’RE REAL! Why wouldn’t you be real?”…you have to kind of mentally slap yourself, or pinch yourself, depending on the degree of the impact. In this case, I think it was a definite slap. I wasn’t expecting to meet Ryan Sambol (singer, guitarist, sometimes plays harmonica) but Kung Fu Necktie was unexpectedly and wonderfully small.  It’s easy to bump into the band folks.  During Those Darlins’(the other band, along with Gentleman Jesse and His Men, on the roster) set, Jocelyn asked Ryan if we could talk to him for the Hook and Line.
 Naturally, I was unprepared, I didn’t have a pen or paper or a tape recorder, all I had was my camera (*note to self, always carry around a pad of paper and a pen just in case you meet someone from one of your favorite bands and you just so happen to want to interview them). Jocelyn had been writing on the back of a Ticketmaster confirmation sheet and on the inside of an empty Orbit gum case to because she was super inspired by the atmosphere of the venue - and I will say, it was a really rad place. There were lanterns hanging from the ceiling, coffins hanging on the walls, bear lights around the bar and a genuine air of oldness and wornness.  Almost like the walls had seen a lot and acquired much wisdom - an untold story. 
Anyway, Ryan noticed our lack of paper/recording devices and he stopped us for a second as we were about to start asking questions. He said, “Wait, so she’s [Jocelyn] writing and you’re [Me] talking?” We were like, “ummm - yeah.” Then he said that he had a tape player in the van and that he also had a tape that we could have if we had the means of playing it. Sweet! So we went around the corner (meanwhile – you can hear the music blasting inside the venue –Those Darlins were playing a cover of The Velvet Underground’s Lonesome Cowboy Bill)and he fetched the tape player out of the van, laid it on top of a concrete post thing-a-ma-bobber , pressed play, and we talked for maybe 6 minutes. After that, we went back inside and I bought their latest LP, Be Brave. It was pretty cool.- Photos by Keba Robinson, Interview by Jocelyn and Keba

Jocelyn: Do you like big venues or smaller ones?
Ryan: I prefer – I guess I prefer smaller ones. I want everyone to be able to get in- but smaller ones can have a better atmosphere.
Keba: What was the first show you ever went to?
R: Red Hot Chili Peppers-Californication tour.
K:Really? They’re awesome!
R:Yeah, that was my first. It was a huge place.

K:What inspires you?
R:Everything, you know? Like, mostly people- conversations and things like that.
K:What’s the last book you read?
R:The Unknown Masterpiece by Balzac - HonorĂ© de Balzac. It’s pretty cool…It’s two short stories about two different artists. One is a painter, the other is a musician. And they’re both kind of insane with genius I guess. But their works that they consider to be their greatest achievements can’t really be received correctly or understood by the people around them. So it kind of makes them go crazy. I just got it actually in New York. It’s shorter than I expected it. I mean, I knew how big it was – but it could have been a lot longer - which is, I guess a testament to how good it is.
K:Do you write besides music?
R:Yeah, occasionally - mostly just poetry stuff. But there’s so much of it that doesn’t get used for the band.
K:Do you do anything else aside from music? Like any other creative things?
R: I like to paint. That’s about it. I would say I almost enjoy that more than playing music, but I’m not nearly as practiced at it.
K:Do you paint on the road?
R:Not really - sometimes Jenna [saxophone player] draws pictures-sometimes I draw pictures - but it’s very rare. I don’t know we should probably…..we need some water colors, I wouldn’t want to break out the oils.
Jocelyn: Do you prefer water colors or oil or…
R:I like everything really, I like pastels though…
J:You can blend….
R: Yeah, I like that, It looks like paint but you don’t need a brush.

K:Did you always want to be a musician?
R:I used to want to be a baseball player- you know, the normal stuff.
K:How did you start playing guitar?
R:My little brother got the first guitar in the house. Philip and I, the base player, we’re brothers. And then  Philip’s friend brought over a guitar- a really cool- nice fender- and it was really cool – then everyone started playing from there.
K:What was the first song you learned?
R:Probably Come As You Are.
K: Oh, that was the first song I learned on bass!
R: Nice. Yeah, my mom came to a show on our last tour. She saw a show in London. And we gave her a ride back to her hotel and she was telling everybody about how she used to go insane because Philip used to play that song over and over again and she would only know the first thirty seconds.