Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Conquering the queer music scene

Kiyomi McCloskey of Hunter Valentine talks Pride and The Real L Word

Credit: Leslie Van Stelten

Formed in Toronto circa 2004, Hunter Valentine has quickly become a favourite of hard-rocking Canadian queers. Recently, the all-girl band joined the cast of Showtime’s The Real L Word. Lead singer Kiyomi McCloskey spoke with Xtra in advance of the group’s Capital Pride concert about everything from the unreality of reality shows to what gay pride means to her.

Xtra: So we’ll start with the topic that’s currently on everyone’s lips: the band’s appearances on Season 3 of The Real L Word. How did Hunter Valentine become involved with the show?

Kiyomi McCloskey:
The casting team of the show contacted our agents. Originally, we thought they just wanted to shoot one scene of Hunter Valentine for the show. So we were down for that, but then we realized they actually wanted us to be on the show as cast members. We were a little bit in shock at first, and then we thought, What better platform to promote the band on than national television that is syndicated in over 20 countries?

What was the casting process like?

I think a lot of people went through a different process than we did. A friend of mine is a really great videographer. She followed us around for a week and knew how to show our personalities. She knew what was going to fly in the editing room. She cut it all together nicely and sent it off, and they loved it. The next thing we knew we were flying into LA.

On the topic of editing, sometimes when people appear on reality shows, they don’t feel they are represented accurately. Now that you’ve had a chance to see the show, what is your opinion of the finished product?

I think that it’s accurate, but you’re not going to be able to portray someone’s full personality within a couple minutes of a scene. A lot of my scenes airing right now are when I’m in high dramatics. There are conflicts, and that’s what is interesting to the general public. They don’t want to watch me laughing and having breakfast with my friends; that’s not really interesting to them. It doesn’t mean that I have that much conflict in my life every day. You have to accept that it’s television, and television is meant for entertainment.

Hunter Valentine is completely original, yet if I were forced to make comparisons I would say you have a sound reminiscent of Joan Jett or Brody Dalle. Are there any musicians you claim as influences?

Definitely, Brody is a huge influence. The Distillers are one of my favourite aggressive rock bands. Coral Fang is one of the best punk-rock albums I’ve heard in a really long time. I’m still listening to it. I wish that they would get back together. Joan Jett is obviously a great female performer and is an idol. So you’re pretty much dead-on.

Your sexuality, of course, is secondary to your music, but has the band ever come into conflict due to your sexual identities?

People ask us about getting pigeonholed all the time. Sexuality plays a huge role in rock and roll music. You know, you look at Mick Jagger and David Bowie; their sexuality just oozes from their music. It’s a huge part of it, not just for queer bands. It’s about representing yourself and being able to expose that. People have called us a lesbian band; we just try to always keep the focus on the music, but we never deny our identity in any way. We’re proud of our community and proud of our identity.

Hunter Valentine was formed in Toronto and has a long history of success in the US. Have you noticed any remarkable differences between the Canadian and American music scenes?

It’s hard to say, because when we were touring Canada the most it was at the beginning of our career. We’ve learned so much since that time. We still tour Canada, but we haven’t gone all the way across the country in one shot since the beginning of our career, when we were touring with bands like Sam Roberts. It seems like we’ve learned so much since then, so it’s kind of hard to say. I’d love to get the chance to go back across Canada now.

You’ve said that as a teenager the songwriting process intrigued you. Has your process changed since then or have you stuck with the initial songwriting process you first learned?

As a songwriter I think it’s always important to be open to growing and expanding your craft. If you don’t, you’re just writing the same song over and over again, and I definitely don’t want to do that. The biggest way that I’ve grown is allowing myself to be more collaborative. I think in the beginning it was very personal for me. I would want to shut myself out and be alone in a room, be able to pour my emotions out in a song. I’ve grown up a lot and I’ve learned other outlets to do that.

What can you tell me about your forthcoming album, Collide and Conquer?

It’s all about that. Adding a fourth member and being united as a band. To be able to tackle any obstacle that comes our way. That’s really what I feel the band had to do in order to get this record done. We’ve seen record labels come and go; we’ve seen managers come and go. At the end of the day, it comes down to the band sticking together in order for us to make music.

It is the Xtra Pride issue, so may I ask, what does gay pride mean to you?

Pride to me means community. The celebration means coming together to celebrate the community and the pride that you have for that community.

Do you have any personal Pride heroes?

Lorraine Segato was one of my early musical mentors. She’s definitely someone that I’ve always looked up to. Another Canadian queer idol would be Carole Pope. I love what she’s done for the community. She’s still hammering away at her career, and I can appreciate that a lot, that kind of long-standing career. Who else? Peaches is pretty cool.

Hunter Valentine’s new album, Collide and Conquer, will be released in September. After each episode of The Real L Word, the band streams a single on