In Her Words: The Real L World's New Star Kiyomi McCloskey

Hunter Valentine's front woman chats about her experience on Showtime's hit show, being outed at age 15, and that new album

Kiyomi McCloskey is waiting at the booming bar with a stunning blonde and a round of shots. In a simple white shirt and pants cut to show her rock star hips, she already looks like a headliner. But the lead singer of all-lesbian band Hunter Valentine is still in the midst of paying her dues as a new cast member in the east coast segment of ‘The Real L Word’. Still, the electric charge that seems unique to punk rock musicians is apparent as I sit down for shots and a chat.

Samantha Gellar: Let’s kick it off with the music. Hunter Valentine has a long track record…

Kiyomi McCloskey: We have two albums that are out already and we have a third one that is about to be released. It looks to be coming out in early September. We’re going to stream a song on our website for free after every episode of the Real L Word airs. We’ve been getting a response to the new sound and it’s been pretty positive so far.

SG: Tell me a bit more about the new album.

KM: I’m really proud of this record because I feel like it’s an evolution of our sound. We have grown a lot as a band. I feel like this is a more mature record. There’s a really nice balance of aggressive and pop. It’s got edge but there’s some straight up ballads on it as well.

We have an It Get’s Better ballad on the record, a kind of anthem for queer youth. I’ve never done an It Gets Better statement and that song was our statement.

SG: A lot of your songs have a personal backstory, let’s hear the story behind this song.

KM: I think of ‘Nowhere to Run’ as the most important song, the one that I really want people to listen to the lyrics. I grew up in a really urban environment—downtown Toronto—and it has the biggest Pride in North America. When I was fifteen I went to my first dyke march and I wasn’t out, I just had a girlfriend. We were walking in the march and the next morning I woke up and I had fifteen voicemails. Finally I picked up the phone and a friend said, “Dude, have you seen the front page of the newspaper?"

So I go down in pajamas to the store and I get the paper—this is the most widely distributed newspaper in Canada—and the front cover is me and my girlfriend kissing. Throughout that whole summer the word spread, and by the time I got back to school everyone knew. I was really fortunate in the fact that everyone embraced it.

I’m not ignorant to the fact that it’s generally not that easy [to come out]. I felt that it was my duty and job as a role model and a queer person to share that coming out story. Because I was so lucky, I feel like I should help for the kids it’s not so easy on.

SG: Tell me some of your musical influences.

KM: I really like Kings of Leon. I know recently they’ve blown up into the mainstream but I have been following them for years, and I love their mix of southern rock and roll with modern rock band. I love the Distillers, I think that Brody did an amazing job of writing punk songs that had a pop mentality. If it came down to the Beatles or the Stones, I’m definitely a Stones kid. And, of course, Joan Jett is a role model.

SG: Got any great tour stories?

KM: It actually has to do with Joan Jett. We pulled into NYC and I needed to cut an extra key. In the middle of the day I go into a tiny, tiny key shop off of Broadway and I walk in and I see little rocker lady asking for three keys. I think, that voice sounds so familiar. She turns around and it’s Joan Jett. I’m at CMJ, this huge music festival going to all these events expecting to meet all these musicians there. But in the middle of the day, I’m in a random shop and Joan Jett is there. Crazy.

SG: Hunter Valentine has toured for eight years, how do you think your experience gives you an advantage?

KM: I think that with any job or any profession, the more experience you have, the more you learn how to hone your craft. When we tour, we learn from our mistakes. Being in a band is tough, you have to mix your business mind with your creative mind. Hunter Valentine has been really lucky and has worked hard to figure out a way to finesse the facets of relationships in a band. That’s something that can really only come from time and patience.

SG: There’s a certain sexy anger in your music; where does that come from?

KM: I’m a stubborn Taurus and I don’t always know how to express myself in the best way. At an early age I found songwriting. Some people find God and I found songwriting. I learned very quickly that this was my outlet and the way that I know how to best express myself. So in my music there’s going to be anger, there’s going to be sadness, there’s going to be a celebration of happiness.

SG: Do you feel like, as an all-lesbian band, that the climb to musical success has been harder or easier?

KM: The queer community is one of the most supportive communities, especially when it comes to the arts. We have been so grateful for their support—we get invited to play the best events. We do get pigeonholed as a lesbian band, and that does make it difficult to reach the mainstream. As a band our goal has always been to reach as many ears in as many different cultural areas and groups as is possible. The music should speak for itself. If the music is good, the music should overcome all of your obstacles.

SG: Is touring more challenging with the camera crews of reality TV?

KM: Being on a reality show is a challenge in that you have to be completely vulnerable to the camera and expose yourself every hour and every minute of the day. If you sign up for it, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re gonna be there and you can’t go back on the decisions that you’ve made. Touring is a huge challenge on its own without people following your every move and allowing people to watch those challenges and to let them into that world, it takes a lot.

One of the reasons the band signed up for this was to show and expose what it’s like to be a working musician. And I think that Showtime did a good job, and I’m really happy that they came out for that experience and that they’re gonna show the general public what its like.

SG: So what do you think of the show so far?

KM: I saw my first episode. This is my first season and it’s hard to watch yourself sometimes, but especially when I don’t feel I’m that much of an asshole.

SG: The L Word cameras are famous for getting up close and personal in the bedroom, has that taken time to adjust to?

KM: The first episode they got me in the shower. It’s hard to adjust to make yourself vulnerable to the camera. You get used to it and it’s important to stand by what you do. On my arm it says Je ne regrette rien with a picture of Edith Piaf. It means I regret nothing. I try to live by those words.

SG: Tell me a bit more about these ‘regional reps’. Do you really use your hook-up girls as publicists?

KM: The regional reps was a joke and it started where we were all single and someone was making a joke because I’d hooked up with two girls consecutively in two different cities. They were saying, oh they’re your regional reps. It became an inside joke, and it’s been exploited. I encourage single people to go out and have as much fun as they want. I’ve been referred to as a douchebag for those regional rep comments. If people can’t accept my sense of humor, I’m not about to do a public apology. I wish they could know my personality so they can know that I’m joking but I can’t control that.

SG: What do you look for in women?

KM: Somebody that challenges me, that has the perfect balance of edge and comfort.

SG: You have a choice between the girl of your dreams or the guitar of your dreams…

KM: Girl of my dreams. Then she buys me the guitar of my dreams