On a fall 2013 morning not long after the release of his band Temperance League’s second album, Bruce Hazel was riding his bicycle from his house in Echo Hills to work at The Diamond restaurant.
As he rode along Commonwealth Avenue, he heard gunshots, then saw police officers converging. (He would later learn he’d passed by the scene of a bank robbery.) A song began to unfold in his head, and the first lines were already clear to him as he parked his bike and walked inside the Plaza Midwood diner.
“I remember not taking my helmet off and looking for a waiter pad to (jot down those lines),” Hazel says of the first verse of “This City Is Mine,” from Temperance League’s third album, “The Night Waits.”
On the way home that evening, he stopped his bike on the Briar Creek bridge to take in the view of downtown, and the second verse came to him: “Cranes sweep above the expanding skyline, silhouetted in the pink and blue twilight.”
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“I thought something was cooking when I left the house. Exercise gets the songs going,” he says, explaining why he doesn’t listen to music while he rides. “By the time I get to work, I’ll have a line or two.”
“This City of Mine” is one of several songs on “The Night Waits” that captures Charlotte from the viewpoint of an artist in his 40s. Temperance League is made up of six music veterans who collectively have logged decades in local bands – Hazel, guitarists Shawn Lynch and Chad Wilson, bassist Eric Scott, drummer David Kim, and newest member Jay Garrigan on keys.
The band plays Neighborhood Theatre Thursday with 6 String Drag.
In a way, the band’s members are the last men standing in a generation of Charlotte musicians who aren’t able to take music as seriously as they did in the ’90s. They’ve watched their peers hang it up for corporate jobs and families and focus less on music.
“It wasn’t a conscious thing. We were the ones that kept playing when life got in the way,” says Lynch, seated around a table with Hazel and Scott at Smokey Joe’s. Its last album, “Rock and Roll Dreams,” focused on that struggle to continue to pursue the dream.
“‘The Night Waits,’ for me, is the morning after ‘Rock n’ Roll Dreams.’ You wake up the next day and go to work,” says Hazel, 42.
“The Night Waits” also tells of a contrary transplant who, with age, has come to not only accept but to love Charlotte and its community. It’s a familiar story to Hazel and Scott: They both moved here from New Jersey, and in their youth were pretty sour on the South; but at some point, they realized this is home.
While taking a leave from the band to pursue his master’s degree in Louisiana, Scott was floored the first time he heard the track “Feels Like Home.”
“The song grabbed my heart and squeezed everything out of it,” says Scott, who is now back in Charlotte teaching social studies to sixth-graders at Eastway Middle School.
Garrigan filled in on bass during Scott’s absence and stayed on to play keys after he returned.
Garrigan – who fronted other bands, sometimes with Lynch, and played as a solo artist – says joining his favorite Charlotte band offered rock ’n’ roll redemption.
“Inviting me into Temperance League let me focus on creative ideas without the pressure of running and owning a band,” Garrigan says. “I’m not sure if the guys realize how much of a positive influence they have been on me and my sense of musical self, giving me a chance to be musical at a time when my creative mind was muddled and blurred by noise and pain.”
The band, which opened for Bob Seger two years ago, has released three albums in three years thanks largely to Hazel’s ability to crank out new song ideas quickly. Less than a week after playing the album release show at Snug Harbor, the band was back at producer Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium Recordings studio in Kernersville.
“They have a super ’60s ethic,” says Easter, who is best known for his early work with R.E.M. and his own band Let’s Active. “They make an annual record and try to be on that schedule, the way bands were when things used to move fast. They’re competent, so it’s not a problem to work that way. Those sessions are great.”
Says Hazel: “For so many years, I feel like I lacked direction. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re more prolific. We’ve got a system, something that’s working for us. We’ll do as much as we can while the muse is there.”
Courtney’s blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.
DETAILS: 704-942-7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.