3 min

Hunter Valentine is startingly unpredictable and original

WESTFEST 2007 / Girl-power band to rock Westfest

STIRRING UP THE GIRL-ROCK RANKS. They're only a year old, but lesbian rock band Hunter Valentine is leaving a lasting impression. Credit: (Capital Xtra file photo)

"Let's not be typical!"

The voice is that of a child's and in the opening moments of an album it catches you off-guard when you're expecting a rock band. But that's the nature of Hunter Valentine's debut release, The Impatient Romantic — startlingly unpredictable and original. 

Only in their second year, the Toronto band is already stirring up the girl-rock ranks. With a deep, inviting voice and her brazen heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics, singer Kiyomi McCloskey channels Janis Joplin and Lucinda Williams, adding a defiant punk edge to her original material. McCloskey is backed by Adrienne Lloyd, a classic-turned-electric bassist and their manic drummer, Laura Petracca.

The band's name, Hunter Valentine, rolls off the tongue, romantic and independent yet familiar sounding. It's what they're going for. In their manifesto the band explains the choice.

"The name Hunter Valentine represents a certain kind of person … an attitude. She is the heartbreaker that fucked up your chances.

She is the badass inside you that comes out every once and a while. If you don't love her, then you want to hate her. But you can't. Because she is just herself and she never promised you anything."

That youthful angst spills over into The Impatient Romantic, indulging in the impulsive sweetness of a child before slamming into the first track, "Typical." The young voice and the rebellious idealism of the words, "Let's not be typical!" epitomize the gutsy three-piece band and their sexy, addictive album. From the spleen-rattling bass line and sing-along chorus of "Typical," to the sombre piano chords and heart-throb sighs of the closing track, "Judy," the album is a triumphant anthem of girl-power.

While the three girls met and started playing together in Toronto summer of 2004, it was at a summer camp in Connecticut that they dug deep into their musical chemistry. Lloyd, who had worked there as a student, hooked up the band with the job of helping bohemian kids realize their true musical potential. 

McCloskey describes their experience. "We were finding it really hard to balance our day jobs with being serious musicians and creative artists. We have always worked really hard as a band. Trying to survive financially while doing that was taking a toll on our creative side. We started to think that the city was sucking the life out of us, but in reality we just needed a break."

Petracca takes over, "It was a great experience. The camp gave us the opportunity to be out of the city and in the wilderness. It gave us creative time together and alone and a lot more fun time together, which is very important to have as a band. It also gave us the opportunity to appreciate Toronto."

Having spent some time at camp reviewing their material and writing new songs in their cabin in the woods, the band came back refreshed and ready to record their album. Signed to Romance Music, a new imprint of True North Records, The Impatient Romantic was released Apr 3, 2007. 

While collaboration was the key in writing for this record, the majority of the writing is McCloskey's, written to bare the imprint of her spitfire lyrics. She talks about finding inspiration in pain and love.

"Any situation that I don't know the answer to right away inspires me. It's a process, and writing a song helps me grow to understand whatever challenge I am, or someone that I know is, being faced with. That challenge could be someone's struggle with addiction or the difficulty that they face in a relationship. It could even be the simple problem of finding someone to go home with at the end of the night, when you are feeling lonely. And also, pretty girls inspire me."

While it's not much of a reach to gather that Hunter Valentine is a lesbian band, they don't advertise the fact. The band is wary of the divisions created by sexual orientation. Lloyd explains their thinking. "If we had to pick an adjective before 'band' it would be rock. It's not that our personal identities and politics don't come out in our music and lyrics, and a lot of people may already categorize us as a lesbian band, but to us, we're a rock band who happens to write songs about girls getting their hearts broken by other girls."

While the band may be wary of the limitations of musical categories, when it comes to queer bands they find themselves in good company onstage. Lloyd gushes, "Canada's queer music scene is really vibrant right now. We've had a chance to play with some pretty amazing local talent, like Carole Pope, Kelly and the Kellygirls, Dance Yourself To Death, Ember Swift, and Rae Spoon."

Playing at Ottawa's Westfest, Hunter Valentine fully intends for you to fall in love with them. And it's quite possible that you might, because one thing is certain: estrogen never sounded so good.