This is my first record with my new voice,” says Lucas Silveira, lead singer of The Cliks. Since the group’s last recording, 2009’s Dirty King, Lucas has undergone hormone treatments as part of his gender transition. “I couldn’t record one more song with my old voice coming out of me, but even though I had nightmares that I would lose my voice permanently, I realized that my gender was more important to me than my art.” The result is the new album, Black Tie Elevator.
It’s been quite a journey for a band that took its name from combining the words “clit” and “dick.” Songs like “Oh Yeah” and “Not Your Boy” helped galvanize an audience that, weirdly, combines lesbians with straight white boys. The band has managed to succeed even without a lot of radio airplay. “The only artists who get airplay are signed by major labels who buy advertising on that radio station,” Lucas says. Where The Cliks flourish is onstage. A real showman, Lucas even proposed to his girlfriend, Skye Chevolleau, at last year’s Pride gig. “I wouldn’t have asked her if I thought she wouldn’t say yes,” he tells me.
It all started when little Lucas began playing keyboards at seven years old. As an adult, he ran a successful dog-walking business but dreamed of being a rock star. He recorded his first CD independently in 2004; soon Lucas had a manager who not only helped land a record deal, but also got the album into the hands of Cyndi Lauper. She was impressed enough to invite The Cliks on two different tours. They were signed to Warner Music Canada and Tommy Boy in the States for their next release, 2007’s Snakehouse. “We eventually got dropped, like millions of other bands. It was a clean divorce; I didn’t owe them anything. Hey, they got me to a place where I’m recognized internationally.”
Lucas is keenly aware of his unique role as a transgender rock star. “The music industry looks at you as a product, so the story that I used to be a woman creates intrigue. I know it is somewhat exploitive, but if I’m bitter towards that, there’s no use. When I was younger, I felt like a boy until I was 17, but I suppressed it because ‘transgender’ was just a freak show on Geraldo. I liked girls, so I thought I’d be a lesbian, but all my suppressed memories of feeling like a boy eventually came back, and not to get heavy, but I was suicidal. I couldn’t look in the mirror. At first I used rock ’n’ roll to access my masculine side, but now I don’t think I can go without testosterone. It’s like the juice that gives me life.”
I had to wonder, what about the old songs? Does Lucas still perform them onstage? “I just changed the keys. You have to play the hits. I learned that from Cyndi. I asked her if she was sick of singing ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun,’ and she asked me, ‘Do you hear what happens every time I sing that?’” Once the transition was complete, Lucas celebrated by recording a solo album called Mockingbird, featuring a cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway,” which we both agree is one of the greatest songs of the past decade. That record brought him his newest collaborator, producer Hill Kourkoutis, whom he praises for helping him find his new sound.
“I’ve never written songs about my transition,” he tells me. “I used to take my shirt off onstage, but I’m kind of over that. Now I wear a suit onstage. If you wanna be a rock star, you have to look like one.”
Rock on, dude.
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