Cliks Lead Singer Silveira: Welcoming Change When the rock band the Cliks first formed, lead singer Lucas Silveira was a she — Lillia Silveira, who fronted an all-female band. With the transition into a male, he is the first transgender lead singer to be signed to a major label with the album, Snakehouse.
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Cliks Lead Singer Silveira: Welcoming Change

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Cliks Lead Singer Silveira: Welcoming Change

Cliks Lead Singer Silveira: Welcoming Change

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The band The Cliks has gotten a lot of attention this summer. They've been on tour with Cyndi Lauper and been compared to The Pretenders with songs like this, called "Oh Yeah."

(Soundbite of song, "Oh Yeah")

Mr. LUCAS SILVEIRA (Lead Vocalist, The Cliks): (Singing) He's not listening. He's not listening. If he listened to your heart, he'd hear you saying. I want, I want, I want my baby. I want, I want, I want my baby. I want, I want, I want my baby back.

MONTAGNE: Songs like this and one other thing has put the band in the spotlight: its lead singer Lucas Silveira. When the band was first formed, he was known as she - Lilia Silveira - and fronted an all-female band. Then Lilia became Lucas, which took him quite a distance from his very traditional childhood in Portugal.

Mr. SILVEIRA: I was raised in a Portuguese family. I live in Portugal as a child after being born in Toronto. And the environment that I had was a very classic, patriarchal sort of environment where boys are boys, girls are girls. You're Catholic, you grow up, you get married, you have children. If you're woman, you're a housewife. If you're a man, you go out to work.

I never felt that I belonged in that at all. My parents then moved back to Toronto, into Canada when I was about 10. And I always say this that, which is kind of ironic to my situation, the one thing in my life that I'd always been afraid of the most was change. But now, I welcome it with open arms because I understand that it's the only way to move forward in your life. And if you don't, you just stay stagnant in the same place. And how boring is that?

MONTAGNE: Well, I think you might probably agree, but I think most people would think that there are almost couldn't be a bigger change than changing a gender.

Mr. SILVEIRA: Pretty much.

MONTAGNE: And it's mysterious, I think, to most people. Give us a small sketch of how you went from being a girl and transitioned into being a boy - of a woman to a man.

Mr. SILVEIRA: Okay. To begin, it's something that I've been struggling with since I can remember, my earliest memory of life. I knew that I was a boy. I am a boy. That's what I would think in my head.

When I first decided, okay, I need to transition, it first became with changing my name, then the changing of pronouns, then the way I carried myself in the world became very different. So the psychological change was the absolute first transition. And it's actually been almost a year. I had what we called top surgery. Then came the knowledge that, you know, I was going to go on testosterone, and I thought about that. I started doing research.

And then I came to the conclusion that I couldn't because of the fact that I'm a singer, and it very, very possibly will change my voice to the point where I would not have the capacity to sing where I can right now. And I just decided that that was not something that I could do because I identify as transgendered, but I identify mainly as a musician and a singer.

MONTAGNE: About testosterone, one might guess that it would changed your voice, and your voice is your art…

Mr. SILVEIRA: Absolutely.

MONTAGNE: …and you had a band already and, you know, so let's play a song that I think a lot of people will know, "Cry Me River," which was a Justin-Timberlake hit that you covered.


(Soundbite of song, "Cry Me A River")

Mr. SILVEIRA: (Singing) You were my sun, you were my earth, but you didn't know all the ways that I loved you, no. So you took a chance, made other plans. But I bet you didn't know your world would come crumbling down, no.

MONTAGNE: Well, for what it's worth, your voice is lower than Justin Timberlake.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SILVEIRA: Funny.

MONTAGNE: Take a listen to the original.

Mr. SILVEIRA: I tell you, you know, I resented the fact for a very, you know, long time, as long as its been since I've been out and discovered the fact that I couldn't take testosterone. I resented it. But I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is also transgendered.

My reasoning for resenting the fact that I couldn't take it was I was like, everybody is always saying she. I always get pulled out into this reality, and I feel that I'm not visibly trans. And he said to me, well, I find that interesting, because my choice not to go on testosterone has nothing to do with my voice, but it has to do with the fact that I feel that I would be invisible being trans, and that I would be walking around the world with everybody thinking that I was, quote, unquote, "like a biological male."

And I started thinking about that, and I started thinking about how much more comfortable I am with people knowing that I'm transgendered and not necessarily what we call passing. So I will sit in the middle, and I'm very comfortable where I am right now.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SILVEIRA: (Singing) And so I'll say, sorry now, sorry now, sorry, get me on now today. Sorry now, sorry now, sorry get me on my, oh…

MONTAGNE: You were raised partly in Portugal because your family is Portuguese. And I gather that your father fancied himself as a Portuguese Elvis.

Mr. SILVEIRA: Yes, he does. And so has hair like him.

MONTAGNE: And what does that mean? Does he sing like Elvis, or just the equivalent of?

Mr. SILVEIRA: Yeah, my dad was a singer. I have these memories of my father when I was young. He was always singing, and I think he was one of the greatest inspirations for me to become a signer. He used to walk around the house singing Elvis songs, and he - we would go to family gatherings and all of my family would be like, Antonio, sing a song. And he would just sing songs like a cappella, and everybody would just sit there and listen and eat Portuguese food and drink wine. And my earliest memory is him singing this song called "Kiss Me Quick" by Elvis, which is not a very popular song, but I remember it.

MONTAGNE: You know, I don't - I know most of - I think know Elvis songs, but "Kiss Me Quick?"

Mr. SILVEIRA: Yeah, it was…

(Singing) Kiss me quick before I - then he'd go - oh, your lips are touching next to mine. Kiss me quick and say you love so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you for talking to us.

Mr. SILVEIRA: No problem. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Lucas Silveira is the lead singer and also the writer of all of the original songs on the new CD "Snakehouse," by the band The Cliks.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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