When you’ve got a group of female musicians who are fearless, unapologetic and who know how to rock, then you can be sure that their tour is going to be a jumping, head-banging party of a time – even louder and more intense than the album itself.
Having been featured on the latest season of The Real L Word and releasing their new studio album, Collide & Conquer, Hunter Valentine are on a speeding train, headed for international recognition with no plans of slowing down. Drummer, Laura Petracca however, took a break from the band’s upwards climb to chat with us about pulling inspiration from personal experience, living life in front of a camera, and looking up to the “humble” rock stars.
Your new album is Collide & Conquer. Why ‘collide’ and not ‘divide’?
I guess because we had a lot of stuff going on in the last year and it just felt like everything came together all at once, and so, it could have fallen apart or it could have conquered. We basically said, we collided and then we conquered.
What was the theme you aimed for in this new album?
We really just wanted to break our barriers a little bit. The first album we did was sort of polished – a bit poppier than we are now; the second album captured our raw, live element. We were really happy with the two albums, but this one is sort of a combination of both. We wanted to be able to show that we have more to us than those first albums. This one kind of breaks out the mold of who we are, we had a couple extra writers on this album, which also makes things different. It didn’t really focus on a theme. I think we wrote eighteen songs and only chose eleven to record.
Is it a difficult thing using other writers?
Kiyomi and I have always been writing together. Vero [Veronica Sanchez], who’s our bass player, she’s a singer-songwriter. She’s just an incredible writer anyway, so it wasn’t hard writing with her. It was hard figuring what songs to choose. The hardest part is that we have so many great songs, so which songs will be the best for this album. We had Somer Bingham, who was on The Real L Word with us; she sat in on a couple writing sessions. And then working with Greig Nori, who is this big Canadian idol in a way, big pop idol, just the collaboration with all these musicians was really fulfilling because we are doing more than we are normally used to. When you’re learning with other people, you get further in life.
The way you write, record and perform, has that evolved from since you got into the music industry?
Oh yeah. I could say that when I first starting writing, personally, I wasn’t very good at it. I’d always been a pretty good drummer, but when it came to writing music, I didn’t really start shining until the second album where I started to contribute musically. So for me, I think that I’ve come a very long way. I think Kiyomi’s lyrics are so much better than the first album. She’s learning how to write better, in terms of poetry. In terms of music and melody, you know they say you have to write a hundred or two hundred songs before you write really good songs, so I think we sort of accomplished the shitty songs. Now we’re starting to pull out the good ones.
What or who were the main sources of inspiration for writing, especially on this album?
The songs that I wrote, a lot of it had to do with heartbreak and I went through a lot of stuff in the past two years, so for me, it was emotional things, anger towards people that did me wrong, that’s sort of where it came from. Inspiration-wise, I’ve always been a big fan of Muse. I like that they’re so dramatic in their music. That’s where I like to make my input – really great harmonies, different climbing and chord progressions.
After every tour, how do you see yourself growing as a musician?
Lots of things happen on the road. Your daily life doesn’t change and it’s not nine to five. It’s the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed. Mentally, you get stronger because you’re dealing with work, which is playing music, and you’re dealing with your personal life, and you’re sharing your space with four other people. So for me I get better as a musician because I’m playing every night.
Among all the rockers that have inspired you, what is it about a rocker that catches your eye?
Modesty. Not thinking that, “I’m the shit. I’m the best drummer in the world.” Someone that stops and says hello. Someone that helps you when you’re carrying a heavy amp and you’re obviously not strong enough. Any other musician that respects that trade and I’ll respect them for that. It’s inspiring when somebody like Sam Roberts, we toured with him in 2008 and he’s so down-to-earth, he’s a very, very successful Canadian artist and to still be like, “your green room sucks. Come into our green room. Come hang out with us. Come hang out on our bus. Don’t worry about sitting in your van.” So that is inspiring to know that there are still people out there, they don’t carry that chip on their shoulder.
The band is known for being on The Real L Word. Reality TV sometimes gets a bad rep, but at the same time seeing the band go through trials and tribulations is helpful for a lot of people too. What’s your take on reality TV?
I never watch too, too much reality television because some of it is really bubblegum and way too taken out of context. We were excited to do it though because we knew that they were trying a bit of a change. They wanted to show us as a rock band more so than just our personal lives, even though they did touch on all of those things. They got to show what it’s like to be on the road, all that happens and then some. I’m really happy that we did it. I would never take it back. It was one of the hardest things to get used to. You’re basically surrounded by eight people all the time even if you’re just at home having a coffee.
What was your earliest memory of music that pulled you in and made you fall in love with rock and roll?
My dad had two receivers – like amps, in the house, and four speakers. He let me take the amp and the speakers and connect it into my room. I bought a little cassette player – this is going to date me a little bit – and then, I hooked it all up and I would play Solid Gold tapes, I played Queen. Just being able to sit in my room at the age of ten and get to crank all this rock music, that gave me the inspiration to be a musician.