We here at AfterEllen.com have been writing about Hunter Valentine since 2007 when the band was a trio living in Toronto. I first met Kiyomi McCloskey and Laura Petracca when they came through Chicago with The Cliks and that night they were stone sober because they didn’t drink on tour. Both of them had long-time girlfriends at home and they were on their best behavior.
Then last year they toured through my new city of Portland with Sick of Sarah and Vanity Theft with a new bassist, Vero and beer was definitely consumed. But they are also some of the nicest gals you could meet, a persona that doesn’t translate on stage because when they have a guitar or drumstick in hand, they seriously seem like they could kick your ass.
Maybe that’s what The Real L Word producers saw in them, too, because they brought frontwoman Kiyomi, drummer Laura, Veronica “Vero” Sanchez and new keyboardist Somer Bingham onto the third season of the Showtime reality series that’s been airing this summer. Cameras have followed the now-based-in-New York band as they go on tour from SXSW to the Dinah and their relationships with their girlfriends, wives and “regional reps.” The one who seems to have gotten the worst edit is Kiyomi, whose bad ass behavior rubs some viewers the wrong way.
“Now this new thing happens where I meet people in person by chance and they’re a fan of the show and they’re like ‘Wait, you’re not a fucking asshole!'” Kiyomi told me. “I go ‘Yeah, yeah I guess not, huh?’ There’s only so much you want to defend yourself.”
The two major reasons Kiyomi comes off looking like a jerk on the first few episodes have to do with her relationships with new bandmate Somer and girlfriend Ali. With Somer, it just gets to be too many cooks in the kitchen. And with Ali, being in a non-monogamous relationship just doesn’t seem to go over so well.
“I signed up to do the show and I knew, obviously, I don’t have any editing control whatsoever as a cast member on it,” Kiyomi said. “Do I think it’s an accurate portrayal of me on a day-to-day basis? No. I don’t completely think that. It’s just not possible to — there are a lot of things going on and not all of them are going to be shown. And there a lot of things that Somer said or Ali said that aren’t in there. I think I am made out to be a pretty big asshole and it’s OK because some of the things I said, I can’t go back on the things that I said, but people need to remember not everything is in there, man. Obviously there’s a reason as to why they picked me to be the villain.”
Hunter Valentine were picked for the show because the producers of The Real L Word wanted to show lesbians who were “focused and career-driven,” Kiyomi said, since the Los Angeles contingent seems to spend more time focused on their personal lives. “I’m sure you know they have been criticized about not showing that in the lesbian community,” Kiyomi said. “They recognized that and they really wanted to show that this season. I guess one person had the idea of having a band and we’ve been around for a while and have been playing music for a long time and have a strong internet presence, so I guess they came across us that way.”
What’s funny, Kiyomi said, is a lot of people try to take credit for telling the producers about Hunter Valentine.
“A lot of people come up to me and say ‘You know I was the one that told them about you.’ You have no idea how many people have done that,” Kiyomi said. She joked, “That’s so nice of you! Thank you for exploiting my privacy!”
The band had to do a Skype audition, which Somer was part of because she had just been asked to do a trial-run with the existing members.
“She basically joined the band before Christmastime, I guess, and that was right around the time the producers got in contact with us. We said ‘Hey, do you want to sit in on our audition with us? You’re part of the band right now’ and so she did and I think they really liked her, too,” Kiyomi said.
And despite what you see on the show, Kiyomi also really likes Somer.
“I always had a huge amount of respect for Somer as a musician because she’s got a really creative ear and her love of music is really intense,” she said. “And so I asked her to come and jam with us. So she said she’d come and we started writing and I really liked the chemistry, so I told her we should see where it goes and not commit to anything and just make music together, and that’s what ended up being the record. And she came to Canada with us to start the recording process and we were here for a month, and then we went back to Brooklyn to finish it off.”
The result is Hunter Valentine’s third full-length album, Collide and Conquer, due out this fall. There’s no specific release date yet as the band is in talks with a new label, which Kiyomi is excited about.
“What I like about this record is it has a really good balance to it. It has aggressive rock songs that are on the last one. It has a ballad on it. It has like an It Gets Better sort of ballad on it,” she said. “And it has some really good mid-tempo pop songs. I think it’s a pretty well-rounded record. We learned a lot in the last two albums.”