School’s out for summer
L.A.'s Third Grade Teacher is on vacation and on the road
My experience of writing band profiles and concert reviews, includes interviews in tour buses, back stage, from hotel rooms across the country and even at the occasional bar or coffee shop. Now I can add “during recess” to my list.
Sabrina Stevenson has two decidedly different personas. By day, she is a soft-spoken and pleasant third-grade teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. By night, she is the siren of a lead singer for Third Grade Teacher—a fearsome hard rock quartet that will be blowing through the Riff Raff on Saturday.
So when she called me from her classroom, the kids outside playing, I was expecting Sabrina—the loud, vibrant woman that I heard on the CD. Instead, I got Ms. Stevenson—the much mellower, quiet woman with a quick laugh and lots to say.
The beginning stages of 3GT started about nine years ago when guitarist Dave Guerrero answered a classified ad placed by Stevenson in the L.A. Recycler. They started as a duet playing open mike nights in Southern California coffee houses.
“That’s pretty much how we developed our song-writing ethic of writing two songs a week,” Stevenson said. “We needed new material each week. And that’s how we got a lot of our performance experience.”
The 3GT line-up currently playing together gelled three years ago, when Guerrero’s wife Laura Smith joined as bassist and Rob Ahler came on to play drums.
“We’re a really good, solid family,” said Stevenson.
On stage, this family’s performance is becoming legendary. 3GT take its name one step further and don typical school uniforms for each set. But this isn’t schoolhouse rock.
“We are an altered state of reality,” Stevenson said. “We always get, ‘oh, it’s the live show [that’s best],’ and that’s really our strength. I want to bring people into that with us, that’s my objective.”
As showcased in its self-titled debut album on Pinch Hit Records, the band’s sound is a nod to Stevenson’s favorite bands like the Stooges, Rolling Stones and Queen—"I like my music hard,” she said. But what those bands were missing, and what 3GT has to its advantage, is a female lead singer that wails and flails with the best of them.”
Because strong women rock vocalists are still pretty few and far between, reviewers have compared Stevenson to everyone from Courtney Love (not her favorite) to a cross between Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Iggy Pop (the ultimate compliment).
It’s important to remember that this isn’t Stevenson’s full-time gig. This is only what she does on the weekends and those fabulous four months of vacation she gets each year. Not to mention, she also does quite a bit of acting.
“I just have a ton of creative energy,” Stevenson says. “I wish I could do more.”
She said that she shares her nightclub rock persona with her students—most of them own a CD or two and Stevenson even performs for them in front of their desks. It’s essential, she said, to show them that it’s not an either/or society: You don’t have to either do what you love or make money.
“I think I’m a good role model for kids with creative energy,” she said. “Obviously, I’m not on MTV, but the payoff is that I’m doing what I love. It’s about pursuing your passion.”
A lesson well-taught.