8   +   9   =  

Bad Ass of the week: Nikki Calvert

Nukki Calvert

Photo taken by: Mariya Stanhl

Nikki rides fast, drums hard and lives strong. This is an inspirational story of adventure, romance and true grit.

A recent transplant she grew up in Spartanburg, Columbia SC. She graduated from USC with a Bachelors degree in mass communication, majoring in Advertising and English in 2011. Nikki started beating her first drums in 2008.

When this Bad Ass isn’t playing, she rides bikes. Fixed gears and motorcycles are her “other” lovers in life. Currently riding on: 69’ Honda CB 350. First time she found this gem in SC, she had to sell it for tour money. Two years later she came out here and found the same year/make. *Shwing!* A shout out to “Hayasa Motor Bikes” Bike shop. Nikki says they’re legit, honest and reliable for repairs. Word.

Top 3 favorite bands: Modest Mouse (Anything before “Good news” album), Led Zeppelin and Sleep.

Biggest female inspiration as a drummer: Victoria Mandanas, drummer of “Chemical Peel” 23, from SC this Bad Ass has been playing since she was 2.

Her first band “Coma Cinema” led into Alan the vocalist of “Modern Man” (and boyfriend) asking  her to play drums for his band after their current drummer could no longer commit to practice and shows. Jeez man, I can only imagine that had to be a little intimidating; stepping into some other dude’s drum spot and keeping the relationship and band separate.

“I totally felt like, “This won’t last, drum your hardest and have fun, they’ll find someone else you know?” I felt totally “green” as a drummer. I had only started playing 3 years prior. Here’s three sexy, awesome, talented dudes that know their shit. I felt really self-conscious and it drove me to drum like I never had before; I didn’t want to feel like the dudes saw me a “the singer’s girlfriend”. I had to stand apart; our relationship doesn’t have any place in the band.

As you can imagine, everything hasn’t been all puppies and rainbows along their journey to Oakland from SC. While everything is now in it’s right place for the band collectively, there were good times paired with hardships all around…

“Our first big move was to Charleston. We figured “Hey man, if we can make it here, we can make it anywhere!” It was hard for the guys to make such a big move from home. Alan and I definitely went through ups and downs the first year and a half of our relationship, but we love each other so damn much every hard spot became a victory. It wasn’t long after moving to Charleston that the house we moved into was put on the market. Fuck man, talk about stress…just made this big move, trying to work things out then BAM! The house you’re in could be sold any time now. After our last tour we had all talked about kinda, maybe, wanting to move to California…hell maybe Dallas. Well, in one of the weirdest coolest twists ever, BILL MURRAY ended up being the guy who bought the property. Apparently he’s been investing in real estate in the area and flipping houses. I don’t know how, but we managed a deal to get paid $6,500 to move out immediately. We were all waiting for some kind of sign to tell us when the time was right to make our next big move. THIS was IT.”

They chose California. They bought a trailer and 30 gallon tub to fit whatever they could manage and shed everything else. That must have been equally terrifying and liberating. Couch surfing with friends on the two week trip out here, they managed to find a house and jobs right away. Nikki had heard about “Chocolate Lab” from friends; her first search on Craigslist, they had a listing for a server. The rest is history. Talk about meant to be!

Sadly, not long after uprooting to California, Nikki’s beloved grandmother passed away. For those of us who haven’t gone through it, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to get such devastating news so far from home. Her grandparents took her in at a very young age. Her mother was imprisoned when she was just 4 years old and her father was struggling with alcoholism. Her grandmother was her steady anchor and shining light to guide her in the dark.

“One of my favorite things she used to always say was “If you’re not the lead dog in the dog sled, your view never changes” my other favorite was “March to the beat of your own drummer!” Without my grandparents I may not be here right now. They built a home for me. They cherished me and kept me safe. My grandmother is the most Bad Ass woman I’ve ever known. She was adopted at the age of two and spent2 years finding her birth parents. She started a business helping others connect. She had Stacks upon STACKS of thank you letters and cards from families she had helped reunite. When she passed it was by choice; “Failure to thrive”. She simply let go and gave up. I felt so much guilt as if my moving had anything to do with it. Yet I felt a bit of relief knowing she was finally at rest after a lifetime of helping others.”

May she rest in peace. I commend Nikki for hangin’ tough and continuing to pursue her dreams after such heartbreak. It must have been really hard not heading straight back home or feeling obligated to do so. Oakland is a whole new chapter of her life and clearly she’s writing it. Nothing has and I don’t think anything ever will stand in her way.

When listening to her talk about her band mates it’s obvious how close they are and how much she cares about them. I saw “Modern Man” play recently at “Church of the Buzzard” venue here in Oakland. (Don’t know where Church Of the Buzzard is? Ask a punk) In my humble opinion, I’d describe their sound as some kind of melting pot of awesomeness…a little shoe gazey with a bit of psychedelic stoner surfiness, a dash of DOOMINESS, sprinkled with some kind of nostalgic, gritty 80’s undertone to it all. Influences: Depeche Mode, New Order, Brian Johnstown Massacre and Sleep.

All these outside influences magically cultivate to make this happen. Our individual influences in life and music bring our collective idea together. We just jam, man”   

CHECK OUT: MODERN MAN www.mmkxc.com

Thursday May 1st THEE PARKSIDE, SF