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Strange But True: How the Strange Boys play a record store | December 2011

written by Oalya Barr

The Strange Boys stand awkwardly in front of Grateful Dead and Kinks records in the basement stage of Greenwich Village's classic Generation Records Store. Faces of Lou Reed and Jerry Garcia intimidate the seemingly shy indie band, but it doesn't take long before the Strange Boys abandon insecurities and offer a charmingly down-to-earth record store show.

Ryan Sambol | The Strange Boys

"Beggars can't be choosers, right?" says singer Ryan Sambol, almost apologetically when he notices that the basement hasn't quite filled up. The Austin natives are the opposite of condescending; inclusive too, conversing with informal chit chat. They talk and perform just like your older brother and his college friends’ band, impromptu, scatter-brained, and little organized. "So... we have the lowest self-esteem of any rock and roll band right now. Also, we're probably the worst rehearsed band..." utters Ryan. But we forgive him. His loungy and playful demeanor, as well as the comfy and cross legged Mike La Franchi with his single drum, and relaxed bassist, Philip Sambol, with guitarist, Greg Enlow, form a sleepy and likeable crew.

As the band eases into comfort and Generation Records fills with an audience, Ryan's squinty and tangled singing become more assertive. In some songs his voice projects a smooth and juvenile tone, in others he projects garage-grunge, filled with moans and jagged groans. The foursome start with classics from prior albums, including the popular "Be Brave." As they start to play songs from their newly released Live Music, a southwestern harmonica wheezes alongside Greg's full, syrupy guitar twangs. Of the new songs played, "Walking Two by Two," is the most animated and "Punk's Pajamas" enjoyable for the anecdotal introduction: "It's about a punk, who just needs to figure it all's not an easy life out there!" One of the last songs the band shares is called "Doueh", inspired by the band from Niger called Group Doueh, blues solos and African rhythm prevail.

The Strange Boys’ playful honesty and head bobbing infects the crowd with a stoned and un-self-conscious contentment. Their slight self-deprecating and jokey comments only make the band more relatable. Cheerful and tangential banter. Don't take them too seriously. They certainly don’t. It’s not really in Ryan Sambol’s philosophy:

The Strange Boys

What would you say are the band's main influences? “Well, I don't know. Anything that's good.”

What would you consider "bad"? “Anything that's not honest."

What's different about Live Music in comparison to your past work? “New songs, some new instruments.”

When asked what fans may not expect about the Strange Boys, Ryan looks away momentarily. “We're nice guys,” he says with a shrug. “We're very polite. We try to be modest.”

So, as strange as they may be, the boys hide very little. Sincere and honest. Lou Reed and Jerry Garcia now seem less intimidating. If anything, they’d nod and agree, and would maybe ask which isle to pick up a copy of what they just heard.


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