Lucas Silveira of The Cliks; genre, gender, and fashion

Lucas Silveira is the charismatic frontman and founder of The Cliks, who had major success as a rock band in the US and Canada with their two major releases, Snakehouse and Dirty King. In 2009, the pressure of Lucas being the first “out” male transgender artist signed to a major record label took a toll, and the band split up. After a hiatus and a personal journey of transformation, including formal testosterone hormone therapy, Lucas has brought back The Cliks for the new soulful album Black Tie Elevator, set to release April 16th. Lucas was very warm, open, and even excited about discussing the connections between transitions of genre, gender, and fashion. If you have questions about The Cliks, dapperQ sought out the answers!

Cliks IPhoto by Charles William Pelletier

dapperQ: I have to tell you that I have a friend named Henry and every time we hang out I ask him, “Henry are you coming?!” Like that song from Dirty King.

Lucas: You know, that song is actually about a cat. This little cat that used to roam around the neighborhood that I lived in at the time. He would always try to get into the foyer of my apartment building.

dapperQ: I will be sure not to tell Henry that I’ve essentially been calling him a cat.

Lucas: His mom moved to downtown Toronto from a farm, and she didn’t realize you couldn’t just let your cat out alone on one of the highest traffic intersections of Toronto. So he was always scared and worried. About eight months ago I had a film premiere of this movie I was in and a woman walks up to me and says, “Do you remember me? I used to be your neighbor,” and I was like, “Oh my god you’re Henry’s mom!” He had passed away by then. He got hit by a car (to nobody’s surprise). She really loved him but she didn’t know how to take care of a cat in the city.

dapperQ: I’ve been listening to the new stuff from Black Tie Elevator and it’s a totally different direction from your previous work. Way more R&B than rock. Was this an intentional decision?

Lucas: It was not a change that came about with any thought. It was very much a natural transition for me. And, oddly enough, it confused me for a very long time. I was like, “Why am I writing music like this all of a sudden?” When I was younger I listened to a lot of soul and R&B. I always found that singing soul music made me feel the closest to myself as an artist and performer. When my voice changed, and I felt close to my real self again, that part of me opened up. It really was natural, and I think it has something to do with the fact that I finally felt like I could pull it off. For some reason when I sang soul music in my female voice I didn’t feel connected to it, and then when my voice changed I did. That became a transitional piece of me hitting those roots that I came from in the music that I used to love.

Clicks IIIPhoto by Charles William Pelletier

This is just me theorizing about my artistic process, though. It’s very complex. Transitioning on hormones as an artist has been one of the most interesting things I’ve ever experienced in my life, because I realized that our hormones dictate so much of how we process information and emotions. I think people see hormones as “pregnant lady is hormonal and she freaks out and has the baby and it’s all done and over” or as like, “woman is on her period,” without thinking about how hormones are these living breathing entities inside of us that are dictating, very physically, our responses to things. All of a sudden I was responding to life very differently, in this way that I thought before wasn’t possible, or was socially constructed. I thrive on being self-aware, so it was strange for me to be receiving information that I usually process in one way and not having the same emotional response.

I tell people I can’t cry any more. I used to watch a sappy commercial and start bawling. Now, it’s difficult for me to even get tears out. Not that I don’t feel the sadness but I just can’t get it out the same way that I used to. It’s the same thing that’s been happening to me artistically, it’s all part of that emotional transition. So it wasn’t like I sat down and decided this artistic change.

I know…it’s trippy. I’m still trying to understand it myself.

dapperQ: Do you think maybe your fan base is going to change?

Lucas: It was definitely a thought when I was doing the record, and it was something that I had to struggle with. Especially with the people I was working with on an industry level, on a business level. Because it’s about marketing. I had marketed The Cliks as a rock band and now we weren’t doing that. I don’t even know what to call The Cliks anymore, to be honest. It was a concern but I thought, other bands grow and change, and if you decide you’re going to stay the same just to stay the same then you might as well just quit doing music as an artist, because the sense of growth is completely lost. I always say that the people that I work with were more accepting of my gender change than they were with my genre change. That’s the humor of life. When I decided I was just going to do this I was like, this is what is coming out of me, and if I do anything else it’s going to sound fake. People see through that. They’re not dumb. I’m not the kind of artist that’s on the radio. I’m not the kind of artist that has poppy mindless music. It was a concern and I do believe there will be some fans that prefer the rock thing and are going to be a little bit thrown off by it.

Cliks IIPhoto by Charles William Pelletier

But the more I ask people what kind of music they like, the more people are saying, “I like everything.” I listen to jazz one day, the next Rage against the Machine, the next one, who knows? Count Basie once said that there are two types of music, good and bad. And I’m going to try to stick within the genre of good. I can’t think about that negative shit. If I do then I’ll stop having fun.

dapperQ: Why keep the name The Cliks? Why not just come up with a new band entirely? Or have it be like your solo project. 

Lucas: Good question. I said that to myself as well. This is a battle that I had with my manager. What really sold me on keeping the name was when I was talking to a friend of mine, who I had met as a fan years and years ago, before Snakehouse even, and I was telling him that I was thinking of changing the band name. He had such a look of disappointment on his face. I was like, “What’s the big deal? It’s still me!” And he said, “I don’t know, man, it would make me feel weird. Like you’re leaving us behind.” That made sense to me. When it comes to music, it’s the familiarity of the name. I look back through the years and it’s always been my baby, my music, my vision, and that still remains the same. So it still is The Cliks.

dapperQ: I’m glad to see you’re not done with Justin Timberlake covers, though. I recently watched your What Goes Around Comes Around cover. I still go back and listen to your version of Cry Me a River like all the time. It’s so good. This new one is good too.

Lucas: I love to sing his music. Thankfully, “Cry Me a River” still sits with my voice. I had to drop like four keys or something since my voice got super low, but it’s such a fun song.

dapperQ: It’s hard not to remark on how your voice has changed. It’s just not something you expect from an artist. You expect the lineup to change, the instruments, but never the lead singer’s voice.

Lucas: I agree it’s a very different thing. Someone made a comparison between me and Justin Bieber, the way that his voice has changed recently as he’s passed puberty, which I thought was really funny. It’s definitely not something you expect to happen. That’s why I understand why people would ask about it.

dapperQ: Were you scared?

Lucas: It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I’ve always loved playing guitar and piano, and I play drums and bass too, but the connection that I’ve had to singing has always been so close. I always tell people before I identified as anything, I identified as a singer. That was my first love. That’s why on this record I really wanted to have it showcased. It was important to me because it was the first time I was able to hear what I’d always heard in my head. But it was scary in the process because I was told that my voice could possibly be ruined by hormones. I did it because I knew I had to but that was the first time that I put my gender ahead of my musical identity. And it was the weirdest thing for me because I never ever thought that one would surpass the other. It just became this need to feel comfortable in my body…I was so unhappy and I thought, if it happens, it happens. I’ll find my way in the world. The universe has its way of showing us what we need. I think I sound way better than I did before, personally, and what I hear through the speakers feels the most like myself.

I wonder what path it would have led me through, though, if I couldn’t sing. I had this really bizarre thought a few times that I probably would have been just as unhappy being male and not being able to sing, as I was being female and able to sing. I’m just glad it worked out.

Cliks VIPhoto credit: Ted Grant/Chris D.

dapperQ: Is it awkward to go through that transition in a really public way? Do you get sick of talking about it? (I know I’m shooting myself in the foot here as a journalist).

Lucas: I don’t feel pressured by it. I think if I wasn’t open it would automatically be a source of tension between me and any journalist. If I were to tell my publicist that it was off the table, then it would leave out a major part of the context of my history as an artist. I think that when you choose to be out in the public as an artist, part of that is also deciding to be more exposed because what you do is personal. Those are the types of artist that I’m interested in. I don’t need to know every detail but there is something to be said about connecting to people through seeing their humanity and their experiences. That’s the beautiful thing about music. It makes us all feel connected. If there’s an artist that chooses not to do that, I’m not saying I wouldn’t like their music, but I probably wouldn’t be as interested. I don’t feel pressured at all. It’s kind of how I am, anyway, I’m just an open person. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be since it puts me in a vulnerable position and leaves me open for attack, but I’m starting to get a thicker skin lately. So I feel comfortable doing it.

When I was a kid the closest I had to somebody like me in the media was David Bowie. He was a lifesaver. But at the same time I always knew that even though I was similar to him, I was not the same. I think there’s something to be said about having representation. I don’t have to be walking around with a big old “I’m a transman!” on my shirt, but it feels right to be myself and have conversations where – I’m not necessarily educating them, but – where they can feel like, “Hey, this guy’s just a normal dude!” And I’m like, “Yeah, you’ve got to get it out of your head that we’re strange or have crazy mental health issues.” I’m one of the most boring people you’ll ever meet. My favorite thing to do is watch netflix and drink a glass of wine with my girlfriend.

dapperQ: Let’s talk style. Namely, your suits. How do you seek out those sharp, clean cut lines? Do you get them tailored?

I love fashion. It’s always been an extension of my gender identity. Specifically, before I transitioned with hormones. I always wanted to look as masculine as I could. Getting tattooed was the same thing. When I thought I couldn’t take it, that I wanted to find ways to make myself feel more in my body and feel more masculine, clothes were one way of doing that, but also getting tattooed. Before I transitioned I could never find suits that fit me because I’m a little guy. So this sent me to places where things were really expensive, the Italian cut, the European cut. I always try to find suits that don’t make my shoulders feel like they’re too big because then I look like a little man in a big jacket, so I like things that are more tight-fitting. I love the style of that mod 1960s Mad Men era. That’s where I find the influence for the clothes that I buy.

Clicks IV by David HawePhoto by David Hawe

I shop these days at TopMan. All their suits are really slim fitting and because of that I actually fit into a size 36 short. I don’t know how to explain it, but…there has to be an element of rock and roll in the suits that I pick. I could never see myself wearing like a double-breasted wide-tie look. I think I’d just look really weird. I love the skinny tie thing. It’s hard to find clothes as a transguy though. Or just as a little guy, period. I have an issue where I tell people, I’m not a drug addict, I keep a day job, but when it comes to clothing I have a problem (laughs). I spend way too much money on clothes. It’s part of my job though, looking good. If I’m wearing it on stage or at an interview then it’s tax deductable.

dapperQ: That sounds like rationalizing.

Lucas: Yeah trying to find excuses. I know. Bad bad bad. (laughs).

dapperQ: I haven’t seen you live, but do you dress in sick suits for all your live shows too? Because that’s how you look in my mind on stage.

Lucas: Once in a while on tour we got lazy (it would be so hot and we were traveling for long periods of time in a small van) so we tapered it down a bit. But sick suits will definitely be the case in the next tour that we have. I really believe that when people pay to come see a show, that you give them a show. This is our job to perform and entertain. If you get on stage and you don’t care about your audience, it shows. I toured with a band that would only do their get up when there were a lot of people in the audience, and I found it disrespectful. Like, I don’t care if there are four people watching you or four thousand people. It’s just like going to work. You don’t go to your office wearing jogging pants. Or “sweatpants,” as you Americans call them.

dapperQ: Specifically for the new music video, “Savanna,” tell me about your red outfit.

Lucas: When I go out shopping I don’t always buy things, sometimes I just look for ideas. I really like this website lookbook that my girlfriend introduced me to. It has saved me a lot of money because it helps me to put together clothes that I already have. But for the red suit, I just walked into Top Man one day and it screamed at me. I kept telling my producer for the record that I want to put on a show when I go out. I want to look slick, and I want everyone on my team to have a slick dress code. I love that mix of those old soul bands. Like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding, who have these bands that are super well dressed and then the lead singer came out and put on a show. I didn’t want to be overly sparkly, but at least give people a reason to look at you on stage and be like “Yes, you have a look!” I think image is a really important part of music. I walked in and saw the suit and thought, I have to have that. It’s black and red, man! Those are the best colors. It talked, and it fit the look that I wanted. It was that simple. Once I have an idea in my head it has to come to fruition.

When I first started the band fashion was one of those things that I really had in mind. Before Snakehouse there was a Cliks record that was released independently, just a self-titled album, and that’s what started the suit-and-tie idea. The cover of that record is an all-black silhouette of me with just a white tie. Ever since then I wanted to have the two connected. When I recorded that album I was still a woman and using my old name, and I started the clicks as a way to transition. I just didn’t want to be the person being paid attention to most on stage. I wanted it to be a collective because for some reason I didn’t want to be a female singer/songwriter. So I wanted us all to wear dress shirts and ties and look really slick on stage as a team, and explore a presentation of this masculine side of me that I had.

I was afraid that as soon as I started testosterone I was going to lose my fashion sense and be like, “Well I’m a dude now so I won’t care.” It’s definitely something that’s always been in my life and an extension of how I portray myself. Now not only do I pass as a man, but I mostly pass as a gay man! Which tells me that my fashion sense is good.

dapperQ: I’m digging on your new haircut. There’s like a golden ratio of long on top vs. buzzed on sides there that you have achieved.

Lucas: It’s weird. My hair has transitioned with me. I’ve heard that sometimes when women get pregnant, because of hormones, their hair gets curlier, or changes texture. Because my hair has always been curly – I used to straighten it before – but something happened. The texture changed and it all of a sudden got super curly and less soft. I’ve always wanted to have the hair that I have now, this pompadour style from the fifties. Actually, my dad used to wear his hair like this! Mostly, it’s a lot of fucking product, man. I have tested so many products to make my hair stay this way but it’s funny sharing it now. I’ve started using this thing that is literally like oil, that I actually used to make fun of my girlfriend for using (black girls use lots of moisturizers for their hair). Moroccan Argan Oil. You put a little dash and it keeps that shine. I have a molding paste, too. Le Coup for men. Sometimes I wonder what’s in this stuff.

As soon as I get out of the shower I put the oil in first and the molding paste in second, and I literally slick it back. I don’t try to find the shape of it while it’s still wet. Once it gets harder you run your fingers through it and it pops up to get that volume. If I’m feeling extra special that day, and I think it’s going to be windy, I put hairspray in it. I can’t believe I do that to my hair. All that. It sounds like a lot more work than it is.

Clicks VPhoto by Skye Chevolleau

dapperQ: The secrets of Lucas’s hair!

Lucas: You are the first person I have ever, ever told that to.

One of my greatest concerns when I was transitioning was that I was going to be bald. I did lose some of it, but not enough to be bald. If only the hair on my face could start growing that would be nice.

dapperQ: What makes a sexy Canadian man (since apparently, as of Chart Attack’s 2010 reader’s poll, you are number one)? Also, how can we become sexy Canadian men?

Lucas: Say “eh” and eat lots of donuts. (laughs) I don’t know. Drink lots of maple syrup. That was a really funny thing. I think it’s very sweet of them to have nominated me and the fact that I got voted by the public goes to show that there’s a lot of open minded, great human beings. I think the most important part of that whole experience were all the emails I got from kids being like, “You have no idea how much that just made my day.” It is very hard for younger trans people, so when weird positive little things like that happen in my career, it makes me thrilled to think I’m maybe helping other people feel less lonely. I don’t care whether I’m sexy or hot, I just like that maybe I can make somebody else feel like they’re not going be alone for the rest of their lives. Because I think that’s something a lot of trans people worry about. That they’re not attractive, or that nobody’s ever going to be attracted to them, and they’re never going to find love. If I can be nominated sexiest man, then you can be sexy too!

Mostly though, it makes me fucking chuckle. Like, really people? (laughs).

To find out more about The Cliks, visit their website, like them on facebook, or follow them on twitter.

 

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