Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Changing the music industry

The Cliks and their trans frontman

Credit: Xtra West files

Looking at Lucas Silveira, you wouldn’t guess that he was a vanguard in the music industry.

All five foot next to nothing, rocking the nu wave revival in his black shirt and thin red tie, he doesn’t really see himself as someone at the forefront of anything, just another guy who loves writing and performing rock ‘n’ roll.

Silveira’s band–a Toronto-based group called The Cliks–has been together in different forms since 2002, but the last year has certainly been unlike anything they’ve experienced since their humble beginnings as a TO bar band.

On Apr 24, The Cliks released their first CD with Warner Music Canada and on Silver Records (Tommy Boy’s GLBT-specific label) in America. That date marks the realization of a lifelong dream for Silveira; it also marks the first time that a vocal group with a trangendered frontman has been released on a major label in North America, and quite possibly the world.

What is equally worth mentioning is that while many queer groups remain in the underground, The Cliks’ new CD Snakehouse is so ridiculously catchy–not just their own songs but their cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”–that it is causing a huge buzz in the music industry.

From Billboard to, mainstream music journalists (largely made up of straight men) are writing about the band–and its trans lead vocalist.

Singer/songwriter Silveira is humbled and clearly grateful for all the goodness, especially since it has been a long and occasionally arduous journey right up to this CD’s release.

“I’ve been working very hard at this for a very long time,” he admits, “and it was getting to this point where I was starting to look for day jobs, because music was not paying the bills.”

Snakehouse–which was produced by The Pursuit of Happiness’ frontman Moe Berg–was being mixed in the studio when Silveira realized that it was time to pony up and get a ‘real’ job. Just hours after that realization, everything changed.

Jake Gold (co-manager of The Tragically Hip) called Silveira and said, “I just listened to the album, it rocks! I wanna take you guys on!”

“I still can’t believe it,” Silveira enthuses, his excitement and gratitude palpable. “Fate just knocked us over.”

Part of his humility and down-to-earthness can be attributed to his tumultuous recent past.

In 2005, Silveira found much of his world crashing down around him. His six-and-a-half year relationship ended, his father had a stroke and, in the midst of it all, Silveira was finally coming to terms with where he fits on the gender scale.

“I wrestled with it my entire life, it was brutal. It affected relationships, friendships, music industry, day job. I started transitioning in 2005, two to three months out of the relationship.”

While he feels comfortable in his body today, Silveira–who has spent his whole life trying to make his way as a singer–struggled to come to terms with transitioning and how taking testosterone could threaten his career.

“I kept thinking about my voice… I started doing my own research on testosterone and I thought, ‘oh fuck, I can’t do this.’ Music is number one in my life.

“At the end of it,” he says, “I learned something about myself. I learned that I identify as a transgendered male; I don’t identify as a man. I started questioning things: am I not transgendered if I don’t have a deep voice and hair all over my body? No, I still am who I am. I decided that I was in the middle ground.

“Then I found a lot of people like me,” he adds.

He has already had top surgery and admits that when it comes to the idea of testosterone, “every day is a temptation. But the realization is that if I choose one, I lose the other.”

The Cliks’ fast-rising success means that bigger audiences are coming out to see their live shows. When asked if the frontman is receiving lusty screams and flirtatious attention from a number of different genders and orientations, he blushes a little and smiles widely.

“Straight women, straight men, lesbians and gay men. I am universal love,” he laughs, opening his arms wide.

One of the most exciting things in The Cliks’ near future is their upcoming participation in Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors tour, a travelling festival promoting “equality for all,” hosted by Margaret Cho and featuring everyone from Erasure to Blondie to The Gossip and more.

In her blog, Cho describes The Cliks as “THE BAND of our time” and has also publicly stated that “no one else can inspire such crushed out admiration and full on rock star screaming.”

Silveira is thrilled to be included on the tour, which will allow his band to play for much larger crowds than they are used to. “On the main stage, we’ll be playing in front of 10,000-plus people. That is going to be a huge thing for our careers, something that will change things for us by far. In fact, someone came up to me in the bathroom the other day at a show and said, ‘Can I hug you before you get huge?’ The whole thing is happening really quickly, and I feel incredibly lucky.”