We’ve given Division Day a bit of coverage for covering other people’s songs — Roxy Music and Sponge, Depeche Mode, and Sunny Day Real Estate, among others. It’s not that they’re an official cover band — it was all in celebration and anticipation of their remastered and expanded 2007 Beartrap Island. The full-length debut was initially set for release in February ’07 on Mercy Records and had started garnering a pretty healthy buzz, but the label folded, Division Day put it out themselves, D.I.Y. legwork ensued. So this time, Eenie Meenie at the helm, the Los Angeles-via-Santa Cruz quartet had plenty to be excited about.
I figured label instability might also mean a day job or two amongst their ranks. After inquiring, turns out drummer Kevin Lenhart, who’d been working as a substitute teacher, currently does time as a temp. Before taking the plunge to read his thoughtfully funny responses to my questions, check out the video for “Tigers” and see the man in action (and his zombified bearish tiger suit). “Ricky,” also from Beartrap Island, is ready for downloading after our discussion.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a specific subject you usually teach?
KEVIN LENHART: No, I take whatever they throw at me. Generally, I end up teaching younger kids, between kindergarten and 6th grade, and those classes generally cover all the subjects. I do much better with the younger kids, I think my beard lends me some authority with them.
STEREOGUM: Did you go to school for Education?
KL: Not specifically, though my degree, which is in English, Comparative Literature, and Spanish, pretty much makes me an ideal candidate for teaching in L.A. The only actual education training that I did came through a language-exchange class that I took at UCLA. The class went twice a week to Venice High, where we spent one hour teaching English to students from Latin America, and another hour being taught Spanish by those students. That was a fantastic experience!
STEREOGUM: I imagine it’s tough getting any sort of flow going when you’re a substitute. What’s the longest stint you’ve had? Like, any teacher out for a long period of time?
KL: I should say up front that I really don’t have that much experience as a substitute. We got back from tour around March with our label recently folded and ourselves totally broke, so I had to find work ASAP. A friend told me about my teaching company, which teaches at non-LA School District schools, i.e. private, charter, and special needs schools. This arrangement bypassed the certification process needed to sub for district schools, so I went for it, thinking I would get to work right away. Turns out it took a month to get hired (training, security clearances, etc), so I didn’t actually get started subbing until late April. At this point my tragicomic oversight of summer vacation dawned on me; all the kids, and hence all the jobs, were going to vanish by mid-June. Long story short, I didn’t have a prayer of establishing a rapport with a particular teacher or school, so I took every job I could get until summer began, the longest of which lasted only two days. I basically waited around at 6 a.m. for a call to find out which new school I’d be going to that day. I have a ton of respect for subs now, they are thick-skinned folk. It’s very rough having to start fresh with a different group of kids every day, because it generally takes at least a day for you to earn their respect, and thus their attention. Teaching gets easier once you establish that relationship with the students, but I basically only stuck around each classroom long enough to experience the worst part of the process.
STEREOGUM: Generally, do you have a lesson plan or give them busy work?
KL: Generally teachers are merciful and provide me with a lesson plan and paperwork for the day. I have a few activities that I pull out when I need to bide the time, like heads-up seven-up or hangman, but usually I don’t need to use them. There was one instance where I covered for a kindergarten teacher who got food poisoning and had to suddenly leave. I showed up totally unprepared to a screaming class of 25 four year olds, it was a disaster. You know that arcade game where you have a mallet, and there are 10 holes in front of you out of which gophers pop up, and every time you go to smack one gopher, another pops up? That was me all day that day. I won’t do kindergarten again; I need to be able to reason with kids on at least some level. Kindergartners pretty much just fight, hug, and cry all day long. They’re hilarious, but uncontrollable.
STEREOGUM: So are you working for one school or many?
KL: All over the greater LA area, everywhere from west LA to Arcadia.
STEREOGUM: And how long did you end up doing this?
KL: My tenure as a sub was officially two months long. I may go back once touring dies down again, but temping has so far proved a more lucrative and less stressful option, albeit a lot less intellectually stimulating. I was honestly glad when summer snuck-up on me and forced me to start temping instead of teaching, because the emotional drain of teaching was turning out to be a lot more than I’d signed up for. My friend Eric has been subbing and playing in a band for years, and I know Randy from No Age does the same, I tip my hat to those guys, the work is hard. It would be a different scenario if I was hoping to ultimately become an educator, and was structuring my life so that the bulk of my energy went into that pursuit, but coming off of those assignments and going in at night to play rock music with my band was a harsh juxtaposition. I got a lot of special needs assignments, where I would basically shadow a child with a mental disability, often at boarding school facilities that were the last stop before the mental hospital. It was really heavy for me to work in that environment, because it so obviously calls attention to how petty our small daily concerns are when compared with the obstacles these kids are facing; it made me feel grateful and ashamed at once, and just generally wore me out, which is not the benchmark emotional state I was looking to be in before going to band practice at night.
STEREOGUM: Best/worst temp jobs you’ve had?
KL: The worst was when I worked at a life insurance firm assembling paper application packets. I just sat putting little stacks of paper in order literally the entire work day, it was basically factory work in a tie. Apparently I’m really good at it, they wanted to hire me when my assignment was up, but I was like “noooo no no no no!”
STEREOGUM: Do you prefer any specific type of temp work?
KL: Not really, anything where I can check email and listen to music occasionally is preferable, but I’ll pretty much do whatever’s available. After about a 2 year series of forgettable jobs, I got over being frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t find really gratifying work while playing in the band. I couldn’t do this forever, but for the time being I see temping as a sort of necessary evil, and I try to take it on nobly, work hard, don’t complain, and go enjoy the shit out of playing when I get off work. I’m putting the pursuit of my dream job on hiatus until I’m not a touring musician, at which point I’ll probably go back to school and/or move abroad. I have terrible wanderlust, and am dying to move abroad again.
STEREOGUM: These sorts of part-time gigs are obviously great for a touring band member, but it is somewhat alienating in the workplace? I mean, never getting to know coworkers, etc. You miss out on office intrigue!
KL: It’s true! I definitely miss co-worker camaraderie, but I’m a pretty friendly guy, and usually manage to make some pals wherever I end up working. Work is much nicer when you can joke around with co-workers behind the boss’s back. It’s actually pretty easy to insinuate myself into the office gossip ring; people tend to come to me to bitch about co-workers, I think I’m a safe outlet for them, and I’m happy to
listen, it makes work more interesting.
STEREOGUM: Ever read that zine Temp Slave?
KL: No, but I will now, sounds right up my alley!
STEREOGUM: Do you think you’ll ever be able to live entirely off the band?
KL: I try not to tempt myself with that possibility. It’s a long way off as of now, but that’s definitely the goal.
- Division Day – “Ricky”Download
Beartrap Island is out now on Eenie Meenie.
[Photo by Sterling Andrews; L to R: Seb Bailey, Rohner Segnitz, Ryan Wilson, and our man Kevin Lenhart]