Hunter Valentine
Hunter Valentine

Leaving a piece of their hearts

Last year, when the members of Hunter Valentine announced they were going on hiatus, their “amazing and supportive” fans took the news in stride, according to founding members Kiyomi McCloskey (guitar, vocals) and Laura Petracca (drums). This year, the band’s performance at the annual Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, Ca., marks a slightly more definitive end for the rockers, though, like an unfinished sentence, it’s followed by an ellipsis rather than a period. “We will definitely play one-off festivals throughout the year,” Petracca explains. Noting the February release of The Pledge as enough reason not to call it quits completely, she adds, “We want to be able to play it live as many times as we can.”

After this year, though, the Hunter Valentine era may really be coming to a close. The band—which also includes bassist Leanne Bowes and guitarist/keyboardist Lisa Bianco—started in Toronto, Ontario, in 2004 with an eponymous EP, along with a bit of vision and a lot of vigour. Though you might expect the all-female foursome to cite the similarly gendered—and equally rocking—Runaways, or The Bangles, as their inspiration, McCloskey notes, “We didn’t really model ourselves after a particular brand, but we always have admired bands that work really hard and are consistent. I think a good example of that would be Tegan and Sara. They have put in the work and are always growing and expanding.”

No matter where their influences came from, keeping their compass calibrated to their own true north was always imperative to their mission. “We always stayed true to ourselves and tried doing things our way,” Petracca notes. “There have been some amazing bands out there that gave us inspiration and ideas. But our main goal has always been to do it the way we want.” That is clearly in evidence on 2007’s The Inpatient Romantic and 2010’s Lessons From the Late Night. Both sets pull no punches and put Hunter Valentine smack dab in the middle of the rock ’n’ roll circus, right there with dude groups like Sum 41 and pretty much every other band on the Vans Warped Tour.

During the decade since they began, McCloskey thinks the music industry has made more room for women to be taken seriously—“but we still fight for equality, in that regard,” she adds. That’s because, despite the fact that Revolver magazine included Hunter Valentine in their 2012 “Hottest Chicks in Metal” issue, rocker chicks are still not the norm. But that doesn’t bother these gals. “Without getting too philosophical…what is the norm, anyway?” Petracca asks, then answers: “I think you’re doing something right if you feel good doing it and people love what you do.”

Indeed, that spirit and spunk have served Hunter Valentine well. They have made four albums, toured the world, and appeared on two reality TV shows (Showtime’s The Real L Word and VH1’s The Linda Perry Project). Did mission accomplish? “I think so,” McCloskey says. “I’m happy with what we’ve achieved.”

Petracca expands on that thought: “I feel as though Hunter Valentine has accomplished so much. We have toured so many places, were on two reality shows and opened for some iconic bands and musicians. Who else can say they shared a Thanksgiving feast with Cyndi Lauper (on Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays)? I wouldn’t change any of it. It has shaped me as an individual and has shown me strength when times are tough and joy when shit is fun.”

That balanced perspective has also served the band well, particularly in the case of the TV shows, which, in retrospect, turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. “There were some very hard, emotional times when those shows came out,” McCloskey admits. “It’s hard to watch yourself on the screen and relive some of the tough moments that you went through. On a positive note, we made some of the most dedicated fans from our music exposed on these shows. I am extremely grateful for the experience, despite the ups and downs. It was definitely character building, to say the least.”

“I thought that filming The Real L Word opened a new door for us—our fan base increased, more people came out to shows, we made new connections and friendships,” Petracca says. “The Linda Perry Project was very hard on us, individually. It was a challenging show and kind of changed my view on the industry and on L.A. Both experiences were eye-opening and had their rewards.”

Looking back, the ladies agree that absolutely the best experience of their entire run was opening for Lauper at Toronto’s Massey Hall in front of the hometown crowd. Petracca says, “It was the first venue I ever saw a concert at, and it’s a legendary place to play. Needless to say, I will always feel accomplished in my music career.” McCloskey concurs. “I’d have to agree with Laura. Playing in our hometown, in that venue, was so memorable.”

So, with Palm Springs in their rearview mirror, what now for the women of Hunter Valentine? “We are all a bit sad to slow things down,” Petracca confesses. “However, we all have individual plans ahead to look forward to. Kiyomi and Lisa will be continuing in music together. Leanne is a badass bassist—she will be working with other bands. And I am going to focus on food, another passion of mine. Maybe open a restaurant?”