By Christopher J Treacy
They made a hilarious joke about it on “The Brady Bunch.” But when your voice is your true moneymaker, sudden shifts in range are nowhere near as amusing as what happened to little Peter during the recording of the Brady classic, “Time to Change.”
Cliks’ frontman Lucas Silveira, performing with his band at 7:05 p.m. June 1 at Ferndale Pride, faced a series of unexpected curveballs in the four years since 2009’s “Dirty King” CD. The transgendered singer-songwriter had to rebuild his band – and its musical personality – from the ground up. A lesser man might have thrown in the towel, but while rethinking The Cliks, he took the opportunity to make a solo disc, 2010’s “Mockingbird,” and take care of some unfinished business in the form of hormone replacement therapy.
One of the more noticeable effects of the treatment? A throaty change in his singing voice.
Silveira can kiss those androgynous high notes goodbye. Thankfully, his deeper voice has a sexy grit all its own, something proudly on display throughout the brand new, independently-released Cliks collection, “Black Tie Elevator.” But, as you might guess, it was a difficult adjustment. Sometimes when we realize our dreams, the results are startling before they become truly satisfying.
“It was very strange,” Silveira admits during a phone call while preparing to leave for a tour stop in Columbus. “I didn’t feel connected to the sound that was coming out of me – I was still expecting the old voice to be what I’d hear. It’s hard to articulate, but I felt as if my voice was away from me – as if it wasn’t a part of me. The overall effect made it difficult to recognize who I really was.”
It would seem that by seeing the hormone treatments through, he was able to resolve a number of identity issues still plaguing him, despite having been wholly accepted by his audience as a trans man. The voice was the missing link, and by the time work on “Black Tie Elevator” had commenced, Silveira was feeling more complete than ever before.
“The album is a reflection of how I finally became grounded in the end,” he says. “This soul sound is definitely what’s been inside of me all along. But with my old singing voice, I never felt like I could pull it off – I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear. In my own narrative, as a transgendered male, I felt like I needed to relate to edgier rock ‘n’ roll. This process freed that up.”
But if Silveira has any nagging second thoughts about stepping away from the rocking grind that characterized The Cliks’ breakthrough disc, “Snakehouse,” he needn’t worry – “Black Tie Elevator” is far from a straight soul record. The reality is that it’s full of hybrids and very modern sounds without ever giving into to cliched, 21st-century R&B production. It certainly pays tribute to the past, however, with the lead single “Savanna” striking any number of Motown references and the doo-wop noir of “Walking in a Graveyard,” as two standout examples.
Sorting out his voice was a late-coming issue, however, compared with the lack of stability within The Cliks. The original lineup disbanded in 2005. Then, he lost guitarist Nina Martinez in 2008. When “Dirty King” dropped in spring of 2009, all hell broke loose.
“This has been a really bad time for the music industry – for management, for labels. We’d all become very unhappy, but for very different reasons,” he muses, in reference to former band members Jen Benton and Morgan Doctor. “It’s a cliched rock ‘n’ roll story, but maybe they didn’t feel very seen, very visible. They also were apparently uncomfortable being a niche LGBT act … even though they both identify as gay! It was as if they’d become resentful of our audiences rather than being grateful someone was listening. We barely got to do any promotion or touring for “Dirty King,” because they both quit not long after it came out.”
Silveria has been forced to realign his M.O. to jibe with industry throes; it’s meant a complete change in how he thinks of being in a band. In the end, he’s decided to assume the identity of The Cliks and let the chips fall where they may – a move that will hopefully allow him to continue pursuing the project for as long as he likes.
“I needed to admit to myself that this is my project and that it’s up to me to keep it going,” he says. “So, I’ve started hiring people with that in mind, gathering folks around me that want to play, but with the understanding that it may shift around depending on other factors. There’s so little money involved at this point, it’s hard to keep people – and you can’t make promises.”
He clarified that his goal is to hopefully secure permanent members, but said that the current temperance of the music world requires flexibility, adding, “People have lives and jobs; sometimes they need to be able to say, ‘Hey, I can’t do this right now, I need to go pay my rent.’ Redefining things has worked really well for me in the end – it’s strengthened my business relationships.”
Like the Brady Bunch song goes, “When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange…”
7:05 p.m. June 1
Ferndale Pride, Main Stage