Interview: Be Well Singer Brian McTernan on ‘The Weight and The Cost’

The Weight and the Cost gets Equal Vision Records back to the hardcore sound of its roots in the ’90s, back to the head and the heart of what hardcore meant in the minds of so many young kids. It’s how so many old punks still feel now, pain and healing. Be Well has created a very meaningful album.

Each record McTernan has produced, played guitar for, or sang on is a vertebra holding a community strong — the bands on his resume have held the backbone of hardcore together. From Texas Is The Reason to Cave In, Converge, Thrice, Hot Water Music, Circa Survive, Senses Fail and Turnstile — just to name a few — McTernan’s work ethic is enormous.

“When I started recording,” McTernan says, laying out some history from the late ’90s. “I came from the same world that all of the bands came up in, I knew exactly what it should sound like and feel like. We were all young and on the same page and it was cool. I literally worked seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, and didn’t take days off for maybe ten years. It was record after record, but I loved it and I loved the bands. It was great.”

Hardcore punk is full of themes that hold people together, like muscles in the body, and McTernan and Be Well can be considered part of the connective tissue of hardcore music. They’re steadying the contemporary meaning of the genre with The Weight and the Cost, refining the music to peak performance.

“The thing that’s really cool for me about the Be Well record is that I never had a record of my own music that was made with the kind of care and thought that the records I had made for other people’s work had,” McTernan says. “The Be Well record is really like the first thing I ever played on that is like, ‘wow, this is what it would be like if one of my early bands had gone with a producer.’”

Back almost half a decade to 2013, with the downturn in the music industry and changing trends in music, McTernan let go of his Salad Days recording studio and moved on for a minute. Selling the building that held Salad Days and taking a job as  construction manager for a big company, he quickly became Chief Operating Officer – but the job was providing him with little more than a paycheck.

“I had a pretty rough childhood, and there was a lot of mental illness in my family,” McTernan says. “I have had pretty severe depression throughout my whole life. I think that when I was doing the studio stuff, I poured all that energy into the records. When I didn’t have anything like that to pour it into, the depression drastically worsened. I just kinda woke up one day and I was literally in such a dark place that, I mean, it was scary.”

Jump forward, after touring the world and working with Battery, McTernan was ready to do something new. He was looking for something that filled his soul.

“I had reluctantly agreed to do some Battery re-union dates, and it was the best thing I ever did,” he says. “It was like ‘holy shit,’ having something to look forward to, having a reason to be talking to people every day, and having something to think about that isn’t dark and awful was totally cathartic for me. We did those tours and I was literally like, ‘oh my god, I need something like this in my life that I can pour my heart into.’ We got back and at first kind of threw around the idea of making another Battery record, and I started writing. I was writing, writing, writing, and it just didn’t feel like Battery, and ultimately we decided to just go in a different direction.”

Enter the first record by the veteran musicians of Be Well. This album is sculpted by artistic titans, each member a pillar in the global hardcore punk scene from nearly the beginning —  a godfather generation of hardcore — but they are infinite trendsetters in heavy music too. McTernan brings the same ethic he has given to his entire life to The Weight And The Cost, and it plays today like it would have at the beginning of hardcore.

“It was really hard to actually find band members at first,” McTernan says. “Because, I don’t want to say I’m a snob, but I’ve been around some pretty fucking good musicians in my life. It’s like, if it wasn’t going to be on that level, I didn’t want to do it. So, we went and jammed with a million people, and then one day out of the blue, my neighbor sent me a text and was like, ‘oh, did you see that Aaron Dalbec moved to Maryland?’”

With the intel that he and Dalbec were practically neighbors, McTernan reached out and shared the demos.

“He was super stoked, and I think he was in a very similar place in his life,” McTernan says. “He had moved to Maryland and didn’t know anybody. Bane, I mean obviously he is still heartbroken that Bane is not active. He didn’t want them to break up. He never wanted to stop playing music and he was super pumped and just ended up being like the perfect guy. The other dudes, [including Peter Tsouras on Guitar and Shane Johnson on Drums] were both in Fairweather, Mike sent them the demos and they dug it, they jumped on board and that’s the beginning of Be Well.”

McTernan is a very private person who gets an extreme sense of joy and pride from knowing he made a very honest record.

“I wrote one of the most like revealing records that could be written and it’s just a funny, it’s a funny contrast,” he says, his voice beams a sonic smile as he speaks. “I’m really super proud of it. You know, it’s like being at the place I’m at in my life, it’s a super personal record. I mean there’s like a lot of shit on there that, I’ve had people say, ‘are you sure you want to say that?’ And yeah, it’s funny because at times I’ll listen to it and it will make me feel like sad, it’s almost hard for me to imagine feeling some of the things that I was feeling at the time.”

“What having this and kind of reconnecting with music meant for me, I can’t even quite totally remember some of those feelings anymore.”

Be Well have carefully crafted a perfect hardcore record full of catharsis. McTernan and his band are equally passionate musicians whose values and views on making music seem to coalesce perfectly. Be Well has a strong backbone, and they carry a ton of emotional weight to audiences and listeners with The Weight and The Cost.

Pre-order The Weight and The Cost here

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