Second Hand Drugs shuns status quo with 'regressive rock' –

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Loud, Loose and Fun: Second Hand Drugs plays Tip Top Deluxe tonight. (Courtesy Photo)
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Bucking the system.
Let’s just say that Second Hand Drugs aims to make a splash by doing things its own DIY, back-to-the-future way – from the “regressive rock” it creates to the way it markets and distributes that music.
That means eschewing under-paying streaming services such as Spotify in favor of peddling its songs directly to fans from its own website and building a community of subscribers who support what the band represents.
Instead of “giving away our hard work” to corporate giants, the Grand Rapids-based Second Hand Drugs wants to market its art directly to the band’s fans.
“They’re using us for free content basically, so we want to try to turn it around and show people, ‘Look, our website is ours.’ It doesn’t belong to a social media company; it doesn’t belong to a streaming platform,” said guitarist Tyler Kuiper.
“You can come to our site, you can get all the content you want directly from us so we are getting the benefit and you are getting the benefit of not having ads served to you. … We want people to hear our music, but that doesn’t mean we want to just give it away and devalue it so it doesn’t mean anything. We want to put some of the value back into music, because all put so much effort into it.”
Shaking Up the Status Quo: Second Hand Drugs on stage. (Courtesy Photo)
Band founder and guitarist James Wolf noted that the work that musicians do is “years in the making” – the product of lessons, instrument and gear purchases, songwriting and long hours of practice.
And while the band – Wolf, Kuiper, drummer Ryan Gravelle and bassist Christian Somerville – insists they have a tongue-in-cheek, fun and even “sloppy” approach at times, the new singles they released today ooze a gorgeously retro, instrumentally tight rock vibe.
It’s all part of their mission to be known as “Michigan’s most regressive rock ‘n’ roll band,” inspired by the likes of garage rock icons The Sonics as well as The Stooges, The White Stripes and The Velvet Underground.
“The joke was that we’re anti-prog — the reverse of prog-rock,” Wolf suggested, noting that it’s not about striving for perfection. “We’re just playing really simple, fun, fast, loud music.”
Added Kuiper: “There are no rules. We think there should be an element of unpredictability and risk to rock ’n’ roll, which is just missing in so many places because rock is so mainstream. That is why we describe ourselves as punk, too. That element of rebellion was so crucial when we were growing up as teens.”
Showcased for this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, the band’s debut singles – “Surfin’ Spy” and “TBH; ILY” – flaunt that throwback spirit and a self-professed “dirty raw, basic sound.” Scroll down to listen to the tracks and the full radio show podcast, with a live video of the songs from a July performance here.
VIDEO: Second Hand Drugs (Live)

Based in Grand Rapids, though Wolf recently moved to Detroit, band members also subscribe to a rootsy, do-it-yourself ideology, recording everything except for drums on their own, creating, burning and packaging their CDs, and otherwise marketing their music.
(The drums were recorded at Joel Ferguson’s Planet Sunday Studios in Rockford; the singles were mastered by Ryan Jamgotch at Electric Moon Studios.)
“These songs are written as they feel,” Wolf said.
That attitude extends to the band’s live shows, with Second Hand Drugs officially unleashing its new songs tonight (Friday, Oct. 14) at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids. The show starts at 9 p.m., with Melissa Dylan, Low Phase and False Harbor also on the bill. Admission is $5; tickets available online here.
‘A Big Party’: Second Hand Drugs live. (Courtesy Photo)
As Kuiper puts it, fans can expect “a big party” with loud, fun music. Second Hand Drugs also takes pride in playing its songs differently every time it performs live. “I think that’s incredibly enticing,” Kuiper said.
“Rock ’n’ roll was originally this fun, new way to go make noises about how you felt,” suggested Somerville. “It started as an energetic course correction against stagnant status quo stuff, but then it got older and started sort of settling down and making up rules for itself and dictating a different status quo.
“We all realized we wanted to take a turn shaking things up. Regressive rock is definitely, intentionally tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also definitely, intentionally a reminder of how people are capable of just going out and doing things for the sake of doing them, not because there’s a format that needs to be filled. Rock might be dead, and that’s good in a lot of ways, but we’re here, and we’ve got some noises we want to make.”
The band returns to make noise at Tip Top Deluxe for a Christmas show on Dec. 17 with Sorry, Not Sorry and Another Man’s Trash, with plans for working toward release of a full-length album and more touring in 2023.
The Oct. 14 edition of Local Spins on WYCE – which spotlights local and regional artists at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at – also aired new music by Stone Hands, Charlie Darling and Shankool (from the new “Songs of the Pumpkin Boy” compilation), Ethereal, Matthew Fries, Ficus (this week’s musician’s pick by Second Hand Drugs), Gianna Stansell, Strange Heart and The Blue Pines as well as a classic song by Nobody’s Darlin’ (which plays Wealthy Theatre with Hawks & Owls on Saturday). Check out the radio show podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (10/14/22)

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