Sociologist by day, bassist by night


Sean Martens

Alexandra Kokkinakis is the bassist for The Vesuvians.

One may not think initially that the study of human society and an aggressive music genre have much in common, but for Chico State sociology professor and alumna Alexandra Kokkinakis, it’s her life.

Kokkinakis grew up listening to punk-rock music in L.A. as a skateboarding soundtrack. Once she moved to Chico, her family bought her a bass as a going-away present. Since then, Kokkinakis has played in multiple punk bands and performed for about 10 years. She has been in her current non-punk band, The Vesuvians, for four-and-a-half years.

Self-described as “volcanic, psychedelic, goth, Americana guitar rock with surf undertones,” The Vesuvians is truly a melting pot of genres. Each member adds a different style to the mix, which is why there are so many different elements. Their EP “I Need Space!” launched in May, and every song is related to outer space in some way.

“We tend to keep it dark, we have a lot of apocalyptic songs and songs about space ” Kokkinakis said. “We have some murder ballads. I think macabre is probably the way to describe our undertones.”

Although punk rock had been a large part of Kokkinakis’ life, she didn’t always have an eye on sociology. When she came to Chico State as a student, late professor Andrew “Andy” Dick made the connection in her head that sociology and punk rock had more in common than she thought.

“The first sociology class I ever took was Sociology of Deviant Behavior,” Kokkinakis said. “I was into punk rock, but I hadn’t made that sociology connection. The first day of class, he (Dick) was like, ‘I’m an old school L.A. punker and this is my thing.’ He was pretty tough and had some tattoos. I thought, ‘who is this guy and where has this been?’”

Kokkinakis’ family also played a role in her future of sociology because they exposed her to social problems and being socially aware with what’s going on in the world. However, she said that she may not have gotten into the music and deviant side of sociology if it wasn’t for punk. Being a performer and a professor gives Kokkinakis a confidence boost since she is on stage all day, every day.

“I’m confident and comfortable on stage with my band and that’s helped me as a teacher,” Kokkinakis said. “I think I pulled from that a lot when I was starting out as a teacher. I’m going, ‘Oh man I have to talk to 100 students, but I’ve played and sang in front of 100 people. It’s not that different.’”

One may wonder how she keeps up with grading homework and rocking out all night long, but Kokkinakis juggles it pretty well since she plans everything ahead of time.

“The band practice is my vent, my outlet and sanity keeper,” Kokkinakis said. “It’s tough but works out because with the teacher schedule, I’m able to plan when we can record and play shows.”

As for Kokkinakis’ upcoming plans, she is in the very early stages of co-producing a benefit record with her partner, Josh. There is no set date for when this comes out, but the benefits will go towards Safe Space Winter Shelter in order to keep them open a little longer.

Julia Maldonado can be reached at [email protected] or @julianewsblog on Twitter.