Finding His Voice
BY Sunnivie Brydum
April 16 2013 4:00 AM ET
With the recent release of the third album from Toronto-based alt-rock band the Cliks, front man Lucas Silveira says he can now die happy. Black Tie Elevator, says Silveira, “is the first record I’ve made where I feel like everything that I’ve ever wanted to do musically, I’ve done.”
The album is heavily inspired by the blues, and it features soulful tracks that speak to love, loss, and longing. Silveira debuts a sultry, husky voice that is at times reminiscent of Adam Levine, at other moments channels Jack White, and occasionally alludes to David Bowie. It’s haunting and unlike anything Silveira’s recorded before. There’s a good reason for that.
Silveira, now 33, made history in 2006, when he became the first out transgender man to be signed to a major record label. Despite identifying as male, Silveira was still hesitant back then to begin testosterone hormone therapy, afraid that the subsequent deepening of his voice might destroy his singing career.
Many transgender men see quick, noticeable changes when they begin taking testosterone, including a deepening of the voice that resembles the uneven, occasionally squeaky tonalities of a pubescent boy. But Silveira began his hormone therapy slowly, incrementally increasing his dosage and doing regular vocal exercises to minimize damage to his changing vocal cords.
“It was a really scary time,” says Silveira, noting that he consulted with doctors, coaches, and other trans male vocalists who had successfully transitioned and continued singing. “For a good year and a half to two years, I had a really tough time just finding my voice and knowing exactly where it was going to end up.”
The three years Silveira spent retraining his voice overlapped with a four-year hiatus from the Cliks, after tensions with band mates and management resulted in every original member except Silveira leaving the group and the band’s major label, Warner Music Canada, dropping it.
But Silveira, who founded the Cliks in 2004, isn’t lamenting the changes. “It was my band,” he says. “It was my music.… For me, it was just another experience to grow and another way to move forward — sort of using the ‘Cliks’ name as my vehicle to continue to pursue the music that I wanted to.”
That pursuit resulted in Black Tie Elevator, which maintains the emotionality found in earlier Cliks albums Snakehouse and Dirty King but this time adds Silveira’s sultry baritone, scooping and dipping against smoldering guitar riffs and lyrics pulled directly from Silveira’s life. His favorite track, “Cerise,” is about a friend, but Silveira says it’s also an effort to offer brotherly advice to his sister, who he says can’t escape an abusive relationship. “Oh, Cerise,” sings Silveira. “You are coming down off your cloud / You just can’t rely on wicked men / They have taken you for granted…”
Silveira identifies as queer, as does his fiancée, fellow musician Skye Chevolleau, with whom he lives in Toronto. Silveira fondly recounts the moment he proposed to Chevolleau, onstage at Pride Toronto 2012 in front of thousands of fans.
“It was beautiful and it was such an amazing moment for me,” Silveira says. “And of course she said yes. In fact, she said, ‘Fuck yes!’ Even better.”