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Second Rate Citizen Second Rate Citizen

Second Rate Citizens Bring Back Old-School Punk/Hardcore

By Matt Clevenger

Second Rate Citizen

It’s only been a year since Second Rate Citizens first got together, but the Troy-based punk/hardcore group has already accomplished as much as many more established acts.

The band caps off a series of successful local shows with an appearance at the Brewery on Friday, December 31, and is currently finishing work on their debut CD, which will be released in early 2011. Their heavy mix of hardcore, thrash metal and punk makes them a unique voice in the local hardcore scene, and has also attracted interest from several nationally-known acts and publications.

“I call it an aromatic blend of punk, thrash and groove metal,” guitarist Mike Knouff said of the band’s sound recently. “It’s kind of along the lines of hardcore, leaning more towards the punk side. Not the screamo.”

The group, which features Knouff, vocalist Jeremy Combs, bassist/vocalist Zech Ellis and drummer Sam Reck, just got together early this year, but its members are all experienced veterans of the local hardcore scene. Knouff honed his masterful guitar skills in the Sidney and Springfield-area metal bands Mr. Mortis and Fivemotherfuckers, and Combs is known for fronting the Troy-based bands LKD and Slow Burn Theory. Reck has played with both Reece Lincoln and the Covington-based band Riff-Raff, and Ellis is known for his bass work with a long list of local groups including Alien Blueprint, Donkeypunch, AKA, LKD and Slow Burn Theory.

This diverse blend of backgrounds is the secret behind Second Rate Citizens’ genre-bending sound, and every band member has their own different set of influences. “I guess that’s what makes it work,” Ellis explained. “I like Rancid and Operation Ivy. These guys are totally different.”

“My influences span from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin,” Reck added. “The Who is my favorite band, and Bad Religion, the Ramones, Rancid, NOFX and Social D…The only really hard stuff I like is Motorhead, Ratt and Megadeth.”

Knouff and Combs weigh in on the heavier side, balancing the group’s unique sound. “I like everything from the Ramones to Southern Culture on the Skids to Horton Heat and ‘80s hair metal,” Knouff said, naming Clutch and Hatebreed as two other major influences.

“There’s a long list,” Combs added. “DRI, Sloppy Seconds, Hatebreed, ICP, Kottonmouth Kings … and shit like the old Bodycount, with the rap and hardcore mixed. I like it all.”

Combining these influences, the band has developed a unique, groove-heavy sound that mixes punk rock with precise thrash-metal guitars and honest, street-wise lyrics that are not for the faint of heart. The band also uses low tunings, five-string basses and seven-string guitars, adding a heavier dimension to their distinct sound.

“We use a five-string bass,” Ellis said. “Mike plays a seven-string guitar. We tune down ridiculously low, too.”

“I thought seven-string guitar was ridiculous the first time I heard of it,” Knouff explained. “Then I went and saw Fear Factory and watched Dino rock a seven-string. I went home and ordered one before I went to sleep that night and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Second Rate Citizens’ unique sound and intense live shows have already attracted a loyal local following, and the group was even asked to play at Bernie’s Distillery in Columbus with the band Wolfpac, featuring former members of the Bloodhound Gang. The band was also a clear crowd favorite during a recent battle of the bands held at the Brewery and sponsored by Chicago-based “Rock Scarz Magazine.”

“I’d just like to thank everyone that’s helped out and supported us,” Combs said of their rapid progress. “We’re more of a machine than just a band and it takes more than just us to make it happen. There’s a lot of people helping from the sidelines.”

“Pete Cheney helps us out with fliers, designs and shit like that,” he added. “We’ve got to mention Boondah, too. Boondah helps us out, and they’re always willing to throw us a show.”

Second Rate Citizens is currently working on their debut CD, which is being recorded at ICB studios in Dayton and should be out sometime in early 2011. “It’s a nice studio,” Combs said. “They refused to let us be shitty, period. That’s going to be a demo we release early next year.”

They are also looking forward to booking more shows for 2011, especially in Dayton. “We want to play in Dayton,” Combs said, adding that anyone looking to set up shows should contact the band through their Myspace or Facebook pages.

“Any band that’s got a show, hit us up,” he said. “We just need notice. We can’t do spur of the moment shows, cause we all have lives.”

Second Rate Citizens will appear with Boondah at the Brewery in Troy on Friday, Dec. 31. Tickets are $3. Show starts at 10 p.m. 21 + up. More information can be found online at or

Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at

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