An Interview with Lesbian Rock Band Hunter Valentine’s Kiyomi

* Originally published at cherrygrrl.com, July 26, 2010 – Read the full text here

Since 2004,  the three openly lesbian rockers of Hunter Valentine have been creating a definitive sound that inevitably produced legions of devoted fans. This held true over the release of a 2005 EP and finally their 2007 full-length record, “The Impatient Romantic,” on True North Records.

From the great north of Canada, Hunter Valentine – vocalist/guitarist Kiyomi McCloskey, bassist Adrienne Lloyd, and drummer Laura Petracca – are currently touring with Killola and The Cliks. Their intense work ethic, dedication, and friendships continued to set them apart as they released their follow-up, “Lessons From the Late Night,” on Tommy Boy/Fontana/Universal Records in May.

Kiyomi shared with Cherry Grrl some of the secrets to their success.

Cherry Grrl (CG): What continues to inspire you about being a musician? What are the challenges of writing music?

Kiyomi McCloskey (KM): What inspires me about music is being constantly challenged by other artists. I am a big supporter of music as a listener. There is so much great music out there right now and it keeps me on my toes as an artist. I feel that there is no point in continuing on with your art if there isn’t an evolution or growth. I’m always trying to take in everything I see as a songwriter and express what that means to me. The challenges are always going outside of your box and trying things that don’t necessarily make you comfortable, but in the end make you better at your craft.

CG: How difficult is it to be in an all-female band and do you think that your relationships or dynamic are any different than any other bands you’ve toured with?

KM: I think that the music industry in general is tough for artists right now. You work as hard as a line cook and don’t see much return from that. The payment has to be what you take from it. As far as being a female artist, I feel that if we were focused on mainstream rock radio we would say that it is virtually impossible. They don’t play good rock bands and they definitely don’t play female ones.

BUT, the industry has turned their focus, time, and effort on live shows. If we put on a great live show (and I believe we do), word will get out and the people will buy records. So yes, there are some difficulties, but I don’t feel it is so female-specific anymore. At least I am not trying to make that my experience.

Our dynamic is very different than most bands that we have toured with. We are like siblings, best friends, and business partners. That’s a lot of different relationships to juggle, but we have been a band for 6 years now and have learned how to perfect them. We know when to give each other space, we know when to love each other, and we know how to fight… And make up. I see a lot of bands that give up too easily when times are tough. We have gone through a lot together and it has definitely made our bond stronger and our band tighter.

CG: What artists do you continually find motivation from? What contemporary artists are you listening to right now?

KM: I find motivation from bands like Green Day, Kings of Leon and Tegan & Sara. These are all bands that have pushed through no matter what they were up against. They have grown with the times and learned how to adapt. All three of these bands believed in hard work and eventually it paid off. I find that their sound has also changed along the way without compromising how and where they came from. I am inspired by the working man/woman’s dream, for sure.

I am listening to all three of those bands, as well as Deer Tick, Phoenix, The Weakerthans, Gaslight Anthem, People You Know, Dance Yourself to Death, MEN, etc.

CG: Are there any songs you’d like to cover or songs that you wish you wrote?

KM: Too many to say!

CG: Indie Rock Cafe, a site I frequent, named Hunter Valentine as “one of the bands to watch in 2010.” What’s the immediate reaction to that?

KM: It’s nice to know that people are listening.

CG: What do you hope that your live show and your music evokes from people? What is it about your live sound that encouraged you to create a record that replicated that?

KM: I hope that our music evokes honest emotions. When we play live, I try and wear my heart on my sleeve. As far as the recording process went, we decided that it didn’t really make sense to make a record that didn’t sound like us live. Our fans love our live shows and we wanted them to be able to take a piece of that home with them.

CG: Tell us about life on the road.

KM: Life on the road can be a bit grueling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. To be able to say that I travel the world with my friends exercising my passion is an amazing thing. Touring can also be full of surprises. You never know when your van will break down, when a snowstorm will hit, or when a show will fall through. I guess musicians could be classified as adrenaline junkies for loving life on the road.

CG: What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry? Did it ever feel as though the effort was worthless?

KM: At times it can feel that way, but the reward is when you travel all day and meet someone in a small town, whose life has been affected by your music. There are ups and downs with every career choice, especially in this economy.

CG: You spend a lot of time on the East Coast, specifically Brooklyn. What is it that you like about New York? On the other hand, what parts of New York could you do without?

KM: I could do without the Upper East Side and all of it’s rich, privileged bullshit… Just kidding. I love that New York is a frenzy of talented, work-obsessed artists and all of the challenge and knowledge that they bring. I wake up in New York some days, realize that I’m there, and feel lucky that I get to spend my days there.

CG: What have you learned as artists, and what would you tell other artists currently making an effort to be signed?

KM: I would say that you should focus your efforts on building your fan-base and not be so concerned with record label support. If an artist/band has a thriving fan-base, the support will eventually come and who knows, you might not even need them by then!

CG: What skills do you need to succeed in this business?

KM: Talent, hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Oh! A lot of tough skin.

CG: What do you want people to say about Hunter Valentine in five years?

KM: “I can’t wait to go to one of their shows!”

CG: Are there any artists you would like to work with?

KM: I would love to write with Tim Armstrong from Rancid, tour with Pink, and record with Butch Vig.

CG: What’s next for Hunter Valentine?

KM: Tour, tour, tour.

You can find more info about Hunter Valentine on their website, huntervalentine.com, and be sure to review their tour dates as their live shows are not to be missed. Show your support and pick up a copy of their records. You won’t regret it!