Temperance League to Middle Age: “Fuck Off”
The myth persists that rock & roll is really suited only for the kiddies. Of course, when you watch the desiccated wrinkle-husks known as the Rolling Stones (or the Who minus their walkers) hobble around at the Super Bowl, those sorts of traumatic events tend to reinforce that idea.
But there are plenty of acts today who channel the desperation of time passing into rock & roll every bit as cathartic as the young folks’ angst. Charlotte’s Temperance League has been pulling that off for the last few years via a veteran lineup and diligent gigging schedule that suggests they have no intention of behaving in a retiring fashion or acting their age (whatever that means).
The band just record a four-song EP at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium, which finds lead singer and songwriter Bruce Hazel dialing back the MC5 and Ramones tendencies to tap into Temperance League’s pop roots. Hazel and guitarist Shawn Lynch were kind enough to shoot some answers to John Schacht’s email questions about the new music, which comes in a ‘buy the single (“I Don’t Wanna,” b/w “But I Have To”), get access to the rest’ four-song total deal.
Shuffle: So, you’re releasing this as both a single and an EP, but are there plans for a full-length down the road?
Bruce Hazel: Well, we have the songs so I will say ‘yes.’
Shawn Lynch: All four songs we did will be on the Bandcamp site (once the other two are mixed), but right now it’s just the two from the upcoming 45
Shuffle: Tell us about the Fidelitorium sessions for this one — how long did it take?
BH: Two days.
SL:To be precise, we recorded all four songs in about six hours, (all live backing track, then overdubs for vocals and righteous solos) then mixed the two for the single the next day.
Shuffle: You’ve recorded with Mitch Easter before, what do you like about working with him?
BH: The Fidelitorium is very comfortable. Usually when you work in a studio of its magnitude and reputation you can have the tendency to freeze up and play nervously or safely. Working with Mitch puts you at ease. The guy is a legend for good reason. He’s brilliant. He knows how to get what you are after. Especially having worked with him on the last record. We were extremely prepared and excited to do this session. He had everything ready for us and we just knocked it out live.
SL: All I can add is what DK (drummer David Kim) said after hearing the mixes for the 45: “Mitch is a Wizard.”
Shuffle: The songs seem a bit more pop-based than the last batch we heard — was there a specific or general inspiration for these?
BH: As far as general inspiration goes, I have spent 20 years trying to write songs like my favorite songwriters. I studied their craft, struggled to bring my own voice to it. Recently, and especially with this new batch of songs, I just put all those thoughts aside and just sat down to write. What came out I think is the most “me” I have ever been. All the songs on the record were written quickly. I just wrote them down as I played them. Sort of a first-take kind of thing. But the guys really elevate the songs. The band grabs a hold of it and puts in all the missing pieces. I’m lucky to be working with these guys. We have something special happening right now. Plus I’m 40, so I don’t wanna fuck around anymore.
Shuffle: The band’s been together a while now, and they’re all veteran players — how easy it to get what you want to hear in the studio?
BH: It’s been a pleasure. It’s been fun and easy. I guess because we all have that shared experience of years of playing, writing, touring, recording. Now we know what we can do. What we do best. It’s fresh and exciting. I look forward to every opportunity that we get to play.
SL: One of the things we want to achieve is to make records that sound like the old records that we love, and a lot of those were recorded very quickly, with a complete live take from the band, and not a lot of “studio magic.” So we try to be as tight and “honest” as we can musically – and I think that comes across in all the recordings we’ve done with Mitch.
Shuffle: I understand you got to see a hero of yours (and mine) recently. Tell us about it, and what effect that kind of experience can still have on a musician…
BH: I saw Bruce Springsteen when I was 12. I decided then that I wanted to be a musician. That’s funny deciding at 12 what you are going to do with the rest of your life. I’ve missed out on many other opportunities. I’ve sacrificed and struggled all because I knew what I really loved. I went to see Joe Henry a couple weeks ago in New York. He touched that same nerve. I am rejuvenated and inspired. He made me want to be better. Be a better songwriter and a better person. To think and be smarter. To take life in. To be more observant, more attentive, more loving and patient. To be to more awake. Now at 40, Joe Henry’s realizations and wisdom has changed my mind again.
SL: Who’s Joe Henry? I keed, I keed….