Music and style have always gone hand-in-hand. David Bowie helped bring glam to the mainstream. Kurt Cobain’s greasy hair and seemingly unstylish self gave us grunge. And now rockers The Cliks and their well-suited image may change the way people look at female fashion – and gender.
For this installment of The Style Issue, we sat down with The Cliks lead singer and founder, Lucas Silveira, a trans man who knows a thing or two about looking good.
Queerty: Let’s start with the history of The Cliks. How did you guys all come together?
Lucas Silveira: I started the band in 2004 and it had two different members – a bass player and a drummer. I think we were about a year-and-a-half or two years into the band, had released an album, started getting some attention in Toronto and my bass player realized that she didn’t want to be in the music industry. Then, my drummer realized about three weeks later that she wanted to pursue her own solo stuff. So, I got stuck not having a band and that’s when I found drummer Morgan Doctor and Jordan Wright, who is the bass player on the band album. Jordan left the band when we started touring this album and decided she didn’t want to be a part of it. Along the way, after we recorded the album, we got Nina Martinez on to just fill up the sound, because we wanted a really full guitar sound, but we decided that we wanted her to be a full member, because she rocks. Then we got Jen Benton to play the bass when Jordan quit.
QT: You guys are getting a lot of attention for what people are calling your “androgynous” style.
LS: With me – I know that people have pegged this as androgynous, but it’s not really anything contrived. It’s essentially just the way we dress and it is our style. I guess it’s bizarre to most people when women put on suits, but Annie Lennox did it a long time ago, so I’m kind of surprised that people are still taken aback by it. As far as I’m concerned, I relate more to male clothing than I do to female, obviously, so that’s just the way I dress. It wasn’t something that we sat down and said, “What’s going to be our look?” We kind of presented ourselves as – you know, this is rock n’ roll and you want to put on a good show and we just took it up a notch from our everyday style.
QT: Do you feel that people ask you to play it up more than you’re comfortable with?
LS: I haven’t been asked to. I think our label [Tommy Boy] and our management are really happy that we have this look, because image is as important in the music industry as what you’re selling with regard to your music. There is something about the way that you express yourself in your style that reaches out to people to let them know what you’re about. I think people can relate to that. People who are into metal music tend to wear studs and leather and so forth, and then you have the Celine Dion’s of the world who would never do something like that. There is something of a connection between style and music and how the people who like your style and your music – it all connects. You’ll find that a lot of our fans dress the same way we do. Not all, but some do.
QT: Who is your primary fan base, so far?
LS: We have a root following, a lot which comes from the queer community, but we’ve been playing lately and the more we go to shows, it’s shocking to us how many different types of people come out to see us. The most shocking which is middle aged straight guys who love us. I don’t know why I’m shocked at that, but it sort of does shock me.
QT: Do you think that you’re shocked because of the queer overtures of The Cliks?
LS: I think it’s because – I’m shocked because a lot of people have pegged us as being this “queer” band, which I still don’t really know what that means, and it shocks me because even though we’re being pegged as these people within mainstream culture – not to say that queers aren’t part of mainstream culture, but more so becoming – but that these people who are just completely out of the culture feel like they can relate to me. That is something that I’ve worked really hard at doing: creating music that’s universal. That means that I’m doing my job. I’m just really happy that it actually got to reach their ears.
QT: Are there any designers that you would like to rock?
LS: People always ask me these questions and I don’t really know of any designers outside of the extremely obvious. I can’t really say that there’s anybody out there who I can really think of off the top of my head. I just really like fashion in general.
QT: Have you always been into fashion? When you were a kid, did you get decked out?
LS: I did. I tried to. It was kind of hard to get decked out in a Portuguese family and try to where a suit as a kid. My mother would make me wear dresses.
QT: What does your mother say now?
LS: Well, my mom’s pretty cool. I come from a Portugeuse family and I have to say that I am one of the lucky, lucky people on this planet, because my family has been nothing but supportive. They’ve been pretty cool about it.
QT: How old were you when you moved to Canada?
LS: I was born in Toronto, I moved to Portugal when I was four and I moved back when I was ten.
QT: Let’s talk about the style of your music. You guys are obviously rock n’ roll, but who are some of your inspirations?
LS: There are so many! I grew up listening to everything from The Beatles, Elvis, my sister introduced me to The Pretenders, David Bowie. I used to live in Portugal and I moved to Canada and I started listening to a lot of 80’s music. I got really into Mo-Town, Marvin Gaye. I would listen to Prince and Wham! and then I got into metal. I was a metal head for a really long time. Judas Priestâ€¦ From there, I just started evolving into every sort of music. I’d have to say that over the past few years, I listen a lot to Jeff Buckley and Jane’s Addiction. Everything, man.
QT: Of course, we have to talk about the Justin Timberlake cover. Why did you choose to take Cry Me a River and rework it?
LS: That song came out around the same time that I started writing the music for this album and I had just gone through a really intense breakup. I was in a relationship for about six-and-a-half years and the end came about because of the same type of situation as “Cry Me A River”, the lyrical content. I just really connected to the lyrics, but I think that song’s great, I wasn’t trying to say that it wasn’t by doing the version that I did, I just had a different take on the emotion behind it than Justin. His version is a little more laid back, it’s connected with this anger in the lyrics. I went to rehearsal one day with the band and I just started playing it and they just joined in and I was like, “This is a great song.” I was just a matter of taking it to an electric guitar with a bit of distortion and putting the emotion in it that I loved. We only started doing it live, I never thought I’d put it on an album, but when we started working with our producer, he heard it and was like, “You guys have to put it on”, so we put it on and there you go.
QT: Is it awkward fronting the band – you are the one doing the interviews. Does that put you in an awkward position?
LS: No, I don’t feel awkward about it at all. I’m the sole songwriter, I did start the band. As much as I think my band I completely – what makes The Cliks is not just me, but at the same time, all the lyrics are written by me, the music’s written by me. I think that’s just a natural reality to how to deal with the situation.
QT: You guys are touring right now. You’re part of the True Colors tour. Can you tell me about getting involved with that?
LS: We were asked to be on the tour. We were at South by Southwest in March and there was a connection made between Cyndi Lauper’s management and our rep, Rosie Lopez over at Tommy Boy in the U.S. on Silver Label. It’s kind of bizarre, because Cyndi Lauper’s manager introduced us to Rosie on an airplane and then a year later she got the second CD and was like, “This is meant to be” and because of that connection, Cyndi Lauper knew about us and thought that we’d be a good addition to the tour. It was great. [We’re] just getting started and the next thing I know I’m going to be on stage with Cyndi Lauper and Debbie Harry and Margaret Cho.
QT: Are you coming to New York anytime soon?
LS: We were just there! We had two shows. I love NY. There’s something about that city. I’ve never been anywhere – except for Toronto – where I’ve said, “This feels like home”. There’s something about that city that just makes me feel completely at ease. I don’t know if all the insanity going around makes me feel peaceful inside!
Head on out and pick up a copy of The Cliks‘ Snakehouse, out now from Tommy Boy Records. And, just to give you a taste, here’s the video for the group’s single, “Oh Yeah!” Oh yeah…
Top: Krissica Campbell
Lucas in flowers by Clint Mclean