Hunter Valentine: The New Gay Interview
During the summer of 2006, I was living in New York City working as an intern at a small record label. Having temporarily escaped the South and my Baptist University, I was also taking the opportunity to attend every queer event I could fit into my schedule. It was during this summer that I happened upon two young members of a Canadian band named Hunter Valentine at a pride event. Fast forward to 2010, the band has relocated to Brooklyn and is releasing an album on Tommy Boy records. I had the opportunity to catch up with the band’s lead vocalist, Kiyomi McCloskey, earlier last month and much to my surprise she remembered meeting me.
The New Gay: Hey Kiyomi, how are you today?
Kiyomi McCloskey: I’m good. Where are you located?
KM: How’s the weather there? It’s really good here I’m wearing shorts.
TNG: It’s sunny but it’s cold. So, tell me about the new album.
KM: It’s called Lessons from the Late Night. It’s a bunch of songs that we recorded in Toronto before we moved to New York. We had label support in Canada and then we sort of parted ways, so we regrouped on kind of a DIY level and continued. We knew we were going to record an album and we organized everything ourselves, paid for the record on our own, and planned to release it on our own. Then we gave it to Tommy Boy and they really liked it, so they’re putting it out May 11th. I think it’s a growth from our last album because it sort of represents what we do live more and that can be really hard to achieve in the studio. So that’s that.
TNG: I understand that you all are attempting to set a world record next week along with the release?
KM: Yes, we’re trying to play the highest amount of shows in a set number of hours. We’re trying to do 12 shows in 12 hours. We’ll be waking up at 2:30 in the morning to soundcheck at WIPX, a television station. The first show will be at around 8:00 in the morning and the last one will be at 1:00 in the morning, if we’re still alive. We’re calling it Tour de New York and it’s all throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. We’ll see what happens.
TNG: So you’ll be needing some kind of drugs.
KM: Yes, I’m coming from the gym right now, trying to get myself organized, physically fit, and ready. It will be a rock’n’roll marathon.
TNG: What’s your favorite place to play in New York?
KM: We’re still figuring that out. We’ve sort of built ourselves up in the Toronto music scene and throughout Canada. We’ve been in New York for almost a year now and we’re still discovering new venues that we love every day. I’m excited to play the Cake Shop; it will be the last show on May 11th. I think it’s a pretty cool venue on the Lower East Side. We love playing Public Assembly and Bruar Falls, which has the same owners as Cake Shop. I like playing small, dirty, punk rock bars.
TNG: What prompted your move to New York?
KM: We’ve been a band for about six years now and had established ourselves in Canada and had made some business changes over the last year which had included changing our label and management. A lot of the new businesses we were working with were focused on the industry in the United States. We also wanted a personal change as well as a career change so we picked up and figured, if not now, then when?
TNG: Where does the name Hunter Valentine come from?
KM: We wanted to create a fictional character around the band. I wanted to find a name that represented the ultimate heartbreaker; somebody who had become the ultimate heartbreaker because they had been broken so many times that they were almost impossible to re-break. This person sort of walks around breaking hearts but almost doesn’t know that they’re doing it. It also somewhat represents an attitude of having a lot of love for people but not really recognizing it. I could honestly get into so many different definitions of the name but basically it’s about this kind of James Dean character that you would love to hate but you can’t because you love them. That’s not to say that the character is necessarily male. It’s become a lot of things over the years. I imagine I confused you so much with this answer.
TNG: No, no I think I get it. How did the band meet?
KM: I met Laura when I was seventeen and had snuck into a girl bar. We started talking about music and really hit it off. We spent the rest of the night going out and listening to live music and have been playing together ever since. We had started the band before meeting Adrienne but ended up losing our bass player. We started looking around town for a bass player and were introduced to Adrienne through another musician, Lorraine Segato, who was a big pop star in the 80s. She’s a bit of a queer icon in Canada and was in a band called The Parachute Club. We played our first show at a Toronto pride event and now it will be six years in June.
TNG: Do you feel that you’ve faced any barriers as a queer all-female band? Have one of those two things proved to be more difficult?
KM: Trying to break into the mainstream, yes, all the time. It’s not so much the sexism that you encounter face-to-face anymore. You find it more on the business side of things. I’m sure you listen to the radio. They just don’t play female rock bands. I’m not quite sure why exactly, but there’s definitely a big challenge that we face as female rock artists that are trying to get on the radio. Sure, they’re playing the pop stars and the Kelly Clarksons of the world, but how often do you hear The Gossip or Rilo Kiley even? Then you add the queer element and that presents even more of a challenge. Of course, there are also the positive things like having such great core support from the queer community. There’s nothing in the world like the support of that community.
TNG: Do you ever feel frustrated or pigeonholed by being a queer artist?
KM: Yes, I do feel frustrated when we are talking less about the music and more about our sexuality. I don’t really care who Brandon Flowers from The Killers fucks. He could be gay, straight, whatever. I don’t read interviews where they’re asking him if he goes down on his girlfriend, so I’m not sure why I constantly have to talk about my bedroom habits. It’s cool to talk about the community aspect of it and queer politics, but as a musician you want to talk about music.
TNG: Yeah, being queer might make you different from other musicians, but it doesn’t make you less.
KM: You want to credit the support that you’ve received. I’m so grateful to the gay media because that’s where we got our start. We started out by playing prides and different queer events, and we still do that but at some point you want to talk about the songwriting too.
TNG: Speaking of songwriting, who are you major influences?
KM: There were two major influences in writing this record. The first would be the first and second Distillers records. I don’t know of a modern punk rock band with a female singer that has so much power, and I really admire that. The second influence, that not too many Americans would know, is a band called The Weakerthans. (John K. Samson’s) a real poet. His literary references and his Canadian references are pretty amazing. The fact that he can pair the poetic side of his writing with a pop song is such a great combination to me.
TNG: Final question, if you could tour with any band, alive or dead, who would it be?
KM: That’s a good one.
TNG: It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?
KM: Hmm. Maybe I would choose Nirvana. That’d be pretty cool right?
TNG: Absolutely. Thank you for talking with me today.
KM: Thank you!
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