There are a few parallels between Charlotte singer Bruce Hazel and Bruce Springsteen. Both grew up in New Jersey. Both have a working-class style in their lyrics. Both play guitar, but are more known for their heartfelt singing. Both give 110 percent when on stage. While Springsteen had session players for various albums, Hazel recruited "Some Volunteers." Nowadays, with the band Temperance League, it appears that Hazel has finally found his own E Street Band.
The guys in Temperance League have all been friends for years, so it made sense that they would form a band to play on a regular basis vs. the "Volunteers" that Hazel also plays with. The Volunteers got its name from being a rotating cast of local musicians — whoever was around on a particular gig night would "volunteer" to perform. While the Volunteers have enough material to release two albums and Hazel plans to return to gigging with that group, his focus in the last year has been on Temperance League.
That's also not to take away from the annual Fool's Brigade benefit shows that Hazel has organized for the last seven years. The next one is being planned for the spring.
"A lot of times, I'd be writing and just have something that I wanted to play," Hazel says over a beer at Hawthorne Pizza recently while chatting about the Volunteers. "I'd just get whoever was into doing it and then have one rehearsal and go play the show. It could be messy, but it could be spontaneous and beautiful, too."
The rock quintet Temperance League is made up of Hazel, D.K. (David Kim), Mark Lynch, Chad Wilson and Shawn Lynch. While the band members have other groups they perform with, it's Temperance League that forms a kind of comfort zone for its members.
"They're always the ones who are into recording or the first ones at Fool's Brigade practice," says Hazel, who has been living in Charlotte for the last 12 years. "Without even thinking about trying to make it happen, it just happened. That's the fun of it. Those guys are so experienced and we've known each other for so long that when we get together, it just happens. There's really not that much work involved."
Hazel, who has released a handful of albums over the years, says he is constantly writing new material and introducing it to the band on a weekly basis. He records the general basis of a song on his computer and brings it to the other guys — it either leads to a complete song, sparks creativity in the band for writing or is simply left in favor of something else. Either way, Hazel sees a benefit to trying something new each time the group gets together to rehearse.
"They're all great songwriters, producers and arrangers, so it's silly to try and claim anything as my own material," Hazel says. "I just try to instigate something." He hopes to record a debut album in the near future, but also feels the band is still evolving and it might be best to wait until they've gotten established.
The band performs a classic brand of rock with Hazel's lyrics being the glue that holds the song together and draws the listener in. A few of the songs are pulled from the Volunteers, while most are written with Temperance League in mind.
"The storytelling thing is what I know from my uncles, aunts and my folks and what they passed down record-wise and through living," he says. "It's in my blood. Even though I've traveled around a lot, I always go back to it. I try to paint a picture of how social and economic issues affect someone's life. It's not contrived; it's just the way that my songwriting has developed and the way it works best for me. I just try to write honestly."