Rocker and LBGT icon reborn after completing physical transition from woman to man
By: Nick Krewen Music, Published on Tue Apr 23 2013
To describe Cliks lead singer Lucas Silveira as a changed man doesn’t cover the half of it.
When the Toronto rock band led by the transgendered Silveira last released an album, 2009’s Dirty Kings, he had yet to go through the physical transition that converted him from woman to man.
With that process now complete, the 33-year-old Silveira, an icon of the LGBT community, returns with a brand new album (Black Tie Elevator, out Tuesday), a brand new sound, and … a brand new everything, really.
He views his artistic return as a rebirth.
“Pretty much,” he agrees from his Toronto abode. “Not just the fact that I’ve transitioned as a person, but also musically, and it certainly feels that way. I went from having a different voice and body and looking and feeling very differently, to just about how I write in general and how I am as a person. It’s been a huge difference.”
The new Cliks sound, produced by The Weeknd collaborator Hill Kourkoutis, is much more R&B-driven than the band’s previous indie rock work, with Silveira’s potent, hook-laden writing borrowing heavily from yesteryear with the Motown-flavoured shuffle “Savanna;” the heart-ripping ballads “Cerise” and “Still“ with their Stax-fueled romantic drama and the Muscle Shoals feel of “No Good Do’er” leading the way.
But Silveira, whose band appears May 17 at Nathan Phillips Square, is just relieved he’s able to sing again. He was initially concerned that the testosterone he was taking might rob him of his singing voice.
“It was a big, big worry,” Silveira confides. “In fact, it was the main reason why I didn’t go on testosterone in the first place. When I first came out as a trans guy, I was told that if I was to consider being a singer for the rest of my life, it’s just not something that I could do. When I started researching why, it was apparently because testosterone put your vocal cords in a place where you weren’t able to control what you did.”
After five years had passed and Silveira finally felt confident enough to make the switch, he took to social media and was given advice from those who had already experienced it.
“I happened to find a couple of trans guys online who had transitioned vocally,” he recalls.
“They told me that you just had to take a very low dosage. It basically came to the discovery that the fear was around an old method of taking testosterone, which was back in the ’80s and the ’90s when guys were trying to transition very quickly and just injected themselves with huge dosages. That put their vocal cords into a place of shock.
“So I did it slowly, and that’s what made me feel calmer about it.”
Still, it was a major adjustment: Silveira said he re-experienced puberty.
“I was here an adult, finding my way through the music industry, and the next thing I know I’m a little boy with a cracking voice. It was very, very bizarre: Going through puberty as an adult is its own type of hell.”
Silveira also had to learn extreme patience in determining whether he’d ever sing again.
“I think when I hit the year-and-a-half mark, I felt really safe,” he admits. “Before that, it wasn’t that I didn’t think I could sing; it’s the way that your voice transitions: it starts dropping and your high end drops. But your bottom end doesn’t keep dropping; it kind of puts itself in this box.
“Then the more you sing and the more you train, it’s almost as though the bottom drops lower, and then at about two years, the top end starts coming back a little bit. It fluctuates in these very bizarre places, but I think, at this point now, I’ve been on ‘T’ for over three years, and I feel like it’s settled. But it took me about a year-and-a-half to get to that place.”
Silveira claims the completed gender switch also affected his songwriting.
“I still don’t know how to explain it,” he admits. “I tell people I have a three-year-old testosterone brain right now, so I’ve been doing a lot of growing up lately in a very weird way, and artistically as well. It’s like doing acid: You can try to explain to somebody what being on LSD feels like, but if they’ve never done it, they’re not going to have a clue what it feels like.
“I never knew this was going to happen. Your emotional patterns change, the way you think changes, and the way that you react to things changes.
“That really, really went into my being as an artist, and the way I expressed myself: I found myself writing differently. I was hearing a different voice coming out of my body. I felt really comfortable going to these places where I had never felt genuine before.
“And I went to this place where I listened to tons of soul, R&B and blues music when I was younger. My female voice didn’t sound genuine in it, but I just became comfortable in it emotionally, too. I liked it, so I just went with it.”
The significance of the album title Black Tie Elevator dates back to a prophetic dream Silveira experienced prior to the release of The Cliks’ last album three years ago.
“I’m a little bit psychic and I have these dreams that are very, very vivid,” he explains. “I know when one means something and one doesn’t. I had this very bizarre dream one time when I went on holiday right before the last record was released of the Cliks — I had left my band, fired my manager and was coming down this building in an elevator: As I descended, my body transformed into a suit and a tie, and I just remember feeling really, really happy.
“Then a door opened and I woke up. I told my girlfriend at the time that I knew that over the next three years I was going to lose everything and then gain it all back. And that’s exactly what happened.”
A regular speaker at LGTBQ events around North America and happily engaged to Skye Chevolleau, Lucas Silveira says he’s reached a new plateau with Black Tie Elevator.
“If I die tomorrow, I have an album, finally, that I feel represents the closest thing to who I am right now,” Silveira declares. “So I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in life right now. I have a vision for my future and I’m going to keep going towards it, but I think things pretty much worked out for me.
“I can complain day to day about many things — because I’m Portuguese and that’s just in our genetic code — but I think I’m doing pretty well for someone who has been through the tick of life that I’ve been through.”