I interviewed Hunter Valentine's Kiyomi to talk about their latest album, Lessons From the Late Night and the creative process in putting together such an intense record.
Since 2004 Hunter Valentine has literally been hitting the pavement and touring to bring their raw, impassioned sound to fans around the country, and the queer rock trio has amassed a loyal fan base along the way.
Hailing from Canada but now calling Brooklyn home, Hunter Valentine is comprised of Kiyomi McCloskey (lead vocals and guitars), Adrienne Lloyd (bass and keyboards) and Laura Petracca (drums and backing vocals). From their self-financed eponymous EP in 2005 to 2007's full-length record The Impatient Romantic, the trio has delivered unfettered, deeply personal rock 'n' roll music that resonates with their international fan base.
The band's latest release, Lessons from the Late Night, features a collection of wonderfully confronting tunes that explore relationships, love, heartbreak and everything else that life throws at you.
I chatted with lead singer Kiyomi about the new release, working as women in a male dominated industry and their late-night wrestling sessions with touring companions Sick of Sarah.
Erin: How did Hunter Valentine come together, how did all of you meet?
Kiyomi: Laura and I met when I was 18. I was trying to sneak into this gay bar and she busted me. We sat and talked about music for hours and have been best friends ever since. We were later introduced to Adrienne through a fellow Toronto musician.
Erin: Did you know going into this group what kind of music you wanted to play and that you wanted to do it your way without any big label involvement?
Kiyomi: No, I think it's hard to know exactly what you want to do in the beginning. You can fool yourself and say that you know, but really part of the excitement is not knowing. We had ambitions of working with a label, but in the end doing it on our own worked out better most of the time.
We knew one thing for sure though, and that was that we wanted to play good, honest, Rock n' Roll.
Erin: What would you say has been the hardest part of putting together the latest album, Lessons from the Late Night?
I don't remember it being hard. We really enjoyed the process of making that record. The studio is one of my favorite places to be.
Erin: What do you think Adrienne and Laura bring to this group that just can't be duplicated with any other combination of women.
Kiyomi: Their passion and hard work is what sets them apart from most people I know.
Erin: How much has your writing changed since you first started this journey and do you think we can see you mature through your music?
Kiyomi: Definitely! I was a baby when I first started song writing. You can hear the growth/change from the Impatient Romantic to Lesson's. Writing music for me is all about expressing your emotions and your life experience. When your experience is changing all the time and developing, hopefully that comes across in your song writing as well.
Erin: Being that the band is comprised of three women do you find it harder sometimes dealing with the business of music whether its on the road or in the studio as far as how you are perceived or treated in a male dominated industry?
Kiyomi: It only affects you if you allow it to affect you. We have come across ignorant individuals throughout our career, but we just continue on with what we are doing because we stand firmly and believe in what we do. Our new song "Boys Club" is about male dominance in the music industry. We get our frustrations out through the music.
Erin: Is there any song in particular from Lessons from the Late Night that you particularly relate to and/or are most proud of?
Kiyomi: I really love our song "Scarface." It's about falling in love with someone who is a train wreck and can't get their shit together enough to make it work. In that kind of situation it's hard to walk away, but once you do it's like a rebirth.
Erin: How do you feel about file sharing and downloading of music. Do you think this has helped Hunter Valentine and do you see it as a positive step for the music industry rather than the monkey on the back that the music labels make it out to be?
Kiyomi: I think it's made it beneficial for musicians, but it's also made it difficult at the same time. We are getting more exposure to fans, but receiving less and less financial backing from labels and companies. If you can make this new model work for you as a band, then you are set for success. If you are not prepared to move with the quickness of how things are changing, you will be left behind. The music industry is changing at a rapid pace and if you aren't on your game ALL the time you are out of luck.
Erin: I see you play with Sick of Sarah a lot, any funny stories you can tell us from the road crazy girlie antics?
Kiyomi: The other day we had band on band wrestling matches, followed by breaking into a motel pool and skinny-dipping. I'm hoping that mud wrestling is up next!
Erin: Who's been your biggest influence in your career and/or in life?
Kiyomi: Wow. That's an insane question. I will say one of my biggest influences is Edith Piaf. She sacrificed everything for music and performance. She came from nothing and fought her way to the top. I have one of her song names tattooed on my arm. It says, "Je ne regrette rien", which means, I regret nothing. I try to live by those words.
Kiyomi ooses maturity both in her demeanor and in her music and its most evident on the band's latest album, Lessons from the Late Night. Head over to their website, HunterValentine.com to listen to some music and learn about the band.