Acknowledging one’s faults is a crucial first step toward personal growth, but ultimately it’s accepting yourself—and not being afraid to let others in—that’s the essential mile marker on the road to redemption. This is the message behind Hello Sun, the powerfully cohesive new six-song record by Baltimore-based melodic hardcore quintet Be Well, set to be released by Revelation Records.
Fronted by veteran punk and hardcore musician/producer Brian McTernan (Thrice, Turnstile, Circa Survive), Be Well’s latest record picks up musically right where the band’s impressive full-length debut—2020’s The Weight and the Cost—leaves off. The devastating collection of new songs serves as the lyrical continuation of McTernan’s personal struggles with issues like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, but captures the vocalist and songwriter at a very different place from the last record.
“In The Weight and the Cost I was caught in the center of a storm. I really couldn’t see anything except the destruction, and I had no perspective on what was happening,” says McTernan. “I felt when I was writing this new stuff, I had some real clarity on not only how I was feeling for the first time in a really long time, but also how universal a lot of the things I was feeling are to other people. During the writing of the last record I was not able to see that it was a step forward for me. It wasn’t a step into the abyss; it was a step out of the darkness.”
Formed by McTernan in 2019, Be Well began as a collective of some of McTernan’s closest friends and musical colleagues: guitarist Mike Schleibaum (Darkest Hour), bassist Aaron Dalbec (Bane), guitarist Shane Johnson (Fairweather) and drummer Peter Tsouras (Fairweather). The project marked McTernan’s first significant work in the role of frontman and songwriter after many years devoted to producing other bands, bringing him in touch again with his early days playing in hardcore bands like Battery and Ashes. Signing to Equal Vision Records, Be Well issued The Weight and the Cost in 2020. The album gained instant attention in the punk/hardcore scene, earning numerous “Album of the Year” accolades among press and fans alike. Be Well’s latest, Hello Sun, marks their first release on Revelation Records, as well as the band’s first since the Weight release.
Two years later, you can hear pretty quickly on Hello Sun where McTernan stands now. On opening track “Treadless,” he screams with the newfound clarity he’s obtained in recent years over the track’s frantic guitars and drums, throwing a life-saver to anyone who’s treading water just to keep from drowning from the weight of mental illness. McTernan’s been there, and he’s no longer ashamed or afraid to admit it, or to ask for help. He hopes those listening will do the same.
“On ‘Treadless,’ it’s me finally being able to question myself, like, ‘How did I let it get this far? How did I live my whole life hiding something that was so integral to whom I am from the people who love me the most?’” McTernan explains. “And also just realizing the relationship I had with my parents, where I would have never told them what was going on with me, and because of that, they never knew. So many people around me never knew. For someone who has lived such a charmed life in so many ways, how did I never put together that what I felt about myself internally was so at odds with how the people around me felt about me? How do I make it so my daughter and the people around me don’t have to go through the same things?”
Another crucial step in McTernan’s metamorphosis is conveyed in the anthemic “I Will Leave You With This,” the second track on the EP, when the lifelong musician/producer spends a rare moment taking stock of his career, finding that despite his relentless perfectionism, it’s been a pretty incredible ride so far. He says that getting in touch again with his creative passion and sense of community has been reinvigorating, both on a professional and emotional level.
“One of the most incredible things about putting out the first Be Well record and actually doing a lot of interviews is I had never processed how meaningful the records I spent my life making are to people,” he says. “That might sound crazy, but I had only really held on to the negatives in a lot of ways. At my darkest times, I felt like I had wasted my life. I am now able to look back and say that I was a part of something way bigger than me. I played a role in helping artists that I respect beyond words create things that will live forever. How did I never allow myself to take any joy in that? ‘I Will Leave You With This’ is a defiant song, to myself in a way, like, ‘I’m not ever gonna lose that perspective.’”
He’s preaching to the choir. Fans of McTernan’s more melodic work with bands like Thrice, The Movielife and Texas Is The Reason will be particularly captivated by the title track, “Hello Sun,” which pairs gigantic guitar riffs with massive vocal hooks, hinting at McTernan’s deep contributions to the many now-classic band’s he’s produced. The song is the centerpiece of the EP, encapsulating McTernan’s transformation as a husband, father, friend, producer and bandmate.
“An interesting thing about ‘Hello Sun’ is it actually was the first song I ever wrote for this band and we recorded it initially for the last record, but it didn’t come out the way that I had heard it in my head and it just didn’t feel like it fit at the time,” McTernan says. “But when I started working on the new record, all of a sudden it fit for me. That song put me on the path to doing this band. So when we started writing songs like, ‘I’ll Leave You With This’ and ‘In The Shadow Of Who You Thought I Was,’ all of a sudden, ‘Hello Sun’ worked. The sound of it rounded it all out, and content-wise it felt like a part of this next chapter.”
McTernan says the epic, triumphant title track harkens back lyrically to an extremely difficult period in his life, when professional burnout led him to sell his famous Salad Days Studio in downtown Baltimore, start a construction company, and step away from music for the better half of a decade. But his internal despair just followed him to his new career, and only worsened the further removed he became from himself and his family.
“That was probably the darkest time in my life. I felt so disconnected from everything,” he says. “I had a very long period where I felt like I was the worst thing for the people who mean the most to me, and that was so crushing and terrifying. When I read those lyrics back, I thought, ‘I’m not okay right now. I have to find a way to wake up and either be the person they deserve, or get out of the way. It isn’t fair for me to be this way. I could see how it was affecting them. I was not able to be the partner my wife deserved or the father my daughter deserved.”
Yet as intimate as McTernan’s lyrics may be, there’s also a universal quality to Be Well’s narrative themes, with a strong undercurrent of hope and optimism that others don’t undergo the same turmoil that McTernan has experienced in his own life. One of the faster, most aggressive moments on Hello Sun—the track “Only One Wish”—is as much a loving dedication to his teenage daughter, Cassidy, as to anyone else out there who might be feeling silenced and alone, as he once did.
“Basically that song is me hoping that my daughter does not end up having to live her life the way that I did; all our children, in general,” McTernan says. “There is definitely a newfound acceptance out there for people’s sexuality, life choices and mental health. The shame and darkness that used to surround a lot of those things seems to be fading away. In that song I’m definitely saying very clearly that had I been more open— had I asked for the help that was clearly available to me—I wouldn’t have spent 46 years feeling like there was something wrong with me.”
Finally that sense of turmoil and triumph, regret and redemption, capitulates with the soaring closing track, “In the Shadow of Who You Thought I Was,” which finds the band again exploring a refreshingly mid-tempo, melodic post-hardcore space, reminiscent of the title track. Lyrically McTernan says the song is the unofficial companion piece to, “I Will Leave You With This,” expressing the singer/producer’s desire to step out from under the considerable shadow cast by his reputation, and allow friends, family and colleagues to see the real man behind the mixing board. For McTernan, that’s made all the difference.
“I can’t change on my own; I need the people in my life to be able to see the true me…the part of me that I hid forever…the part of me who isn’t the guy who can make a tough call in the studio. There’s also the person who is scared; scared about whether I’m a good father, or good friend, and am I worthy of my amazing wife. I’ve lived so long feeling like I’m not good enough for any of these things. I don’t need to be Brian McTernan, the name on the back of a record. I can be Brian McTernan, the friend. I can be Brian McTernan, the person who needs someone to talk to. I don’t have to live my life in the shadow of this idea of who people think I am. It’s been a pretty incredible journey.”
w/ New Found Glory and Four Year Strong
5/26 Franklin, TN – BreakFest at Liberty Hall
5/27 St. Louis, MO – Red Flag
5/28 Chicago, IL – The Riviera
5/29 Detroit, MI – Royal Oak Music Hall
5/31 Cincinnati, OH – Bogarts
6/1 Pittsburgh, PA – Roxian Theater
6/2 Albany, NY – Empire Live
6/3 New York, NY – Terminal 5
6/4 Worcester, MA – The Palladium
6/5 Atlantic City, NJ – AC Beer Fest
6/7 Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
6/8 Myrtle Beach, SC – House Of Blues
6/10 Orlando, FL – House Of Blues
6/11 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
7/22 Cleveland, OH – House Of Blues
7/23 Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
7/24 Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
7/26 Denver, CO – The Fillmore
7/27 Salt Lake City, UT – The Union Event Center
7/29 Seattle, WA – Showbox SoDo
7/30 Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
8/1 Berkeley, CA – The UC Theater
8/2 San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park
8/3 Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl
8/4 Riverside, CA – Riverside Municipal Auditorium
8/5 Anaheim, CA – The House Of Blues
8/6 Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theater
8/8 Dallas, TX – House Of Blues
8/9 Austin, TX – Emo’s
w/BoySetsFire, Hot Water Music, and Samiam
10/4 London, England – Electric Ballroom
10/5 Antwerp, Belgium – Zappa
10/6 Amsterdam, NL – Melkweg
10/7 Dortmund, Germany – Warsteiner Music Hall
10/8 Hannover, Germany – Swiss Life Music Hall
10/9 Berlin, Germany – Columbiahalle
10/10 Nuremburg, Germany – Lowensaal
10/11 Munich, Germany – Tonhalle
10/12 Vienna, Austria – Gasometer
10/13 Stuttgart, Germany – LKA-Longhorn
10/14 Wiesbaden, Germany – Schlachthof
10/15 Wiesbaden, Germany – Schlachthof