Sound Off: Hunter Valentine
Lesbian punk rock band Hunter Valentine and the stars of Showtime’s season three of The Real L Word will rock San Francisco this month with Canadian punk band Sum 41 January 12 at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco.
"I love coming to San Francisco," said frontwoman Kiyomi McCloskey, who has lost count of the number of times Hunter Valentine has performed in the city. "The people are great. It is beautiful there. The food is amazing."
With bassist Veronica Sanchez and drummer Laura Petracca, it’s just the beginning of the band’s U.S. tour promoting their most recent album, Collide and Conquer. The band has already blown through 70 cities in Canada and Japan in recent months, said McCloskey.
The album is filled with edgy guitar riffs and vocals that show off McCloskey’s alto, which shifts from hard and pointed in-your-face Joan Jett-stylings to deep soul-searching that sometimes echoes Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde.
"I really like loud rock and roll, and that’s the way I see myself playing music for the rest of my life," said McCloskey, a 27-year-old McClosky.
But her acoustic days still show up in some of the album’s ballads. The burning "Liar, Liar," the first single on the album, has been heating up the airwaves across the U.S., and the accompanying video has been accepted as The Freshman on the show MTV U.
Created with famed Canadian producer and Treble Charger frontman Greig Nori, Collide and Conquer diverges from the band’s previous albums Hunter Valentine EP in 2005, The Impatient Romantic in 2007 and Lessons from the Late Night in 2010. The notes and depth of sound on this album are fitting with the complexity of the hard songs that expose the rawness of broken hearts and deception to softer ballads about transformations and self-discovery.
Edgy songs, such as "Liar Liar," "Pulse," "Little Curse (shit happens)," and ballads, such as "Lonely Crusade" and "Crying" are grabbing music lovers’ attention, propelling the band into a broader spotlight.
It doesn’t hurt that the band has been followed around by The Real L Word, which catapulted the three rockers into a new realm and gave an inside look into the life of women musicians. The band doesn’t know if they will be back for the fourth season of The Real L Word, according to their spokeswoman Mona Elyafi.
Music captured McCloskey’s heart at the tender age of 12 when she first picked up a guitar, but it was a rocky start that has only gotten sweeter with time. She nearly didn’t follow a music career. Due to a strict instructor, "a love for music didn’t click at that point," in spite of having a "really high respect for it," she said. A year later, her passion for rock n’ roll took hold under a more creative and supportive guitarist and songwriter who gave her the support and guidance she needed to envision her musical path. She became "obsessed with song-writing," said the Toronto, Canada native, who a decade later is a music maker.
McCloskey, who resides in Brooklyn, New York, was a solo acoustic artist until a chance meeting with Petracca at a crowded bar eight years ago. The duo bonded over cheap beer and rail whiskey and formed Hunter Valentine. They began charting their course through the music industry, slowly evolving and maturing for nearly a decade as they put the pieces together finding the right band mates and record labels.
During that time they produced three studio albums, performed more than 200 gigs a year on tours through Canada, parts of Europe, the U.K. and the U.S., and worked with two different labels before signing with Megaforce Records this past summer.
"I’ve always wanted to have a band," said McCloskey, who attempted starting two bands (Trash Before Class and Dirty Remedy) before Hunter Valentine. "I still play shows on my own just to keep my chops up as an acoustic player, but I love playing with the band. It just takes it to the next level of sound."
Her band mates also help her keep the rock n’ roll lifestyle real. She credits them for keeping her grounded during long periods of time away from home and loved ones. "It’s hard to be on the road sometimes," said McCloskey. "It’s hard to be away from your family. It’s hard to be away from your partner. Basically, my bandmates keep me grounded and focused."
There are the perks when she gets to share her adventures with her family. During the band’s Japan tour, McCloskey, who is one-quarter Japanese, was joined by her father at the end of the tour. It was the first time the two had been to Japan, in spite of their Japanese heritage.
"It was a really cool experience," said McCloskey, a foodie who enjoys exploring the culinary scene in the places she visits.
In the end, it’s the fans that inspire her to keep her wheels on the road and performing. "Every time when you get to a new city where people are waiting to see you play music that really makes me want to keep going," said McCloskey. "It’s just a really thrilling feeling. I feel very grateful for that privilege."
Bay Area fans that miss Hunter Valentine’s San Francisco appearance can catch them on Jan. 15 at Ace of Spades in Sacramento and Jan. 16 at the Knitting Factory Concert House in Reno, Nev. All shows begin at 8 p.m.
For more information about Hunter Valentine, visit www.huntervalentine.com.