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Hunter Valentine Collide & Conquer

Acey Rowe interviews Kiyomi McCloskey of Hunter Valentine.

Everything is on the move for Toronto-turned-Brooklyn band Hunter Valentine. Fresh off the release of their second full-length album, Collide and Conquer (Megaforce/Sony), starring in the third season of Showtime’s The Real L Word, currently crossing North America on their biggest tour yet, and with their sights set on Japan and Australia – the girls haven’t had a whole lot of down time.

Still, I managed to catch up with lead singer Kiyomi McCloskey via email when she was somewhere between Miami and her home in New York. We talked music, the spotlight of reality television, groupies and what it means to be the face of a new generation of lesbian icons.

Acey Rowe for Queeriesmag: You guys have gone through some lineup changes. What inspired the change from three members to four?

Kiyomi McCloskey: We wanted a bigger sound.

QM: Can you introduce your new members, Veronica and Aimee? How did you meet? How did each of them get involved in the band?

McCloskey: We met Vero in Brooklyn in our first years of living in Brooklyn. She was the bartender at our local gay bar.

Aimee we have known for a long time. She used to play in a band called People You Know and has been around the Toronto music scene since she was pretty young.

They are both excellent additions to the band.

Collide Conquer Album cover

QM: You’re currently touring your third full-length album, Collide and Conquer. What was it like working with producer Greig Nori? How did he affect your sound and dynamic?

McCloskey:Greig is an amazing songwriter, and he really helped us zero in on the songs that we brought to the table. We stripped them down and built them back up again. He’s got a great ear and an amazing energy in the studio.

QM: How was writing and recording Collide and Conquer different from your previous albums?

McCloskey: In the past we haven’t had so much input into the actual structure of the
song. Greig spent almost as much time in pre-production as he did recording.
I think the result of this is a much stronger collection of songs.

QM: Certain songs on this album, like “Bull Rides Tonight” and “Crying,” have a bit of a new sound for the band, elements like backup vocals (that aren’t so prominent on earlier albums). Where did this influence come from?

McCloskey: Those are two of the last songs I brought to the table. For me, it shows my softer side of songwriting. I think that softness called for more backup vocals, to give it that extra sweetness.

QM: How do you feel you’ve matured as a band and as musicians?

McCloskey: I feel like we have grown immensely with our songwriting. We are not afraid to explore different genres, and that really shows on this record.

We have also become an extremely tight-knit unit when it comes to our live show.

QM: You’ve wrapped the final North American leg of the Collide and Conquer tour. What was it like this time around?

McCloskey: Insane. Sold-out shows all around North America, and the crowds have been amazing.

QM: How do you keep sane on the road?

McCloskey: You don’t.

The Real L Word Cast

QM: Hunter Valentine’s members have been featured strongly on the most recent cast of The Real L Word. How did you get involved with the show? Did they approach you or did you approach them? How did it all come together?

McCloskey: They approached us and asked us to audition, we did, and the rest is television history.

QM: Did you have any reservations about joining the cast?

McCloskey: It’s a little terrifying exposing yourself completely to cameras, but you get used to it after a while.

QM: What was the best part of being on The Real L Word?

McCloskey: The best part is the fact that we have been able to reach a whole new fan base.

QM: What was it like navigating both your personal lives and your lives as a band while having both documented and filmed?

McCloskey: It’s extremely difficult to navigate, and I believe that if you are going to come across as real on television, then you have to not think about the fact that you are being filmed. It’s kind of like when you are performing live. If you overthink things, you’ll end up fucking up.

QM: What has the reaction been like?

McCloskey: The reaction overall has been positive, and we really aren’t trying to focus on what negativity is out there.

QM: Will you be joining the cast again next season?

McCloskey: We will have to wait and see. The casting people haven’t given the final word.

QM: Do you think the presence of cameras and the pressure of being on the show played a part in it not working out with Somer as a band member?

McCloskey: Not really. Somer was always on that short tour with us as a trial run. She didn’t know whether she could commit to the touring life. She had just gotten married and her wife wanted more of a settled life. She was conflicted with her career versus family life, and it eventually became more and more apparent to the band.

QM: How do your friends and families feel about you all being on the show?

McCloskey: Most of them hid from the cameras but were supportive.

QM: Was there anything that you felt the show didn’t cover or left out that you’d like to share with your fans?

McCloskey: I wish the show filmed more of my band-mates and the dynamic between all of us.

QM: You have a lot of love and support from the lesbian and queer communities! While some bands revel in their identity-oriented fan base, other bands resent being pigeonholed. How does Hunter Valentine feel about being identified as a lesbian band or a girl band?

McCloskey: We don’t identify as a lesbian band or girl band. We identify as musicians first and foremost. We feel very lucky to have the constant support of the queer community. Without that amazing support, there is no doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Hunter Valentine candid shot

Hunter Valentine at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Photo: Renee Navarro

QM: What’s the band’s relationship with Toronto versus New York?

McCloskey: We have a great love for both cities, and we really thrive off their creative energy. Toronto and NYC both have amazing music scenes and they have pushed and inspired us in great ways.

QM: Do you consider yourselves a Toronto band?

McCloskey: Yes, but with a little New York on the side.

QM: Where is home?

McCloskey: The road.

QM: Do you guys have groupies?

McCloskey: We have VERY supportive fans.

QM: What’s a part of your lives now that you never expected when you started Hunter Valentine?

McCloskey: To be consistently recognized in the street is a little strange.

QM: What’s next for Hunter Valentine?

McCloskey: We are going to Japan and then supporting Sum 41′s US tour. Hopefully going to Australia in the spring.

QM: What are you looking forward to there?

McCloskey: The food and new audiences.

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* If you can’t get enough Hunter Valentine, check out our recent live pics of the band performing at the legendary Horseshoe Taven (Photos by: Renee Navarro).

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