"Snakehouse" on a plane

“Rock and roll itself is queer – the whole history of rock and roll. I think now they realize there’s a solid core audience that they can market things to that maybe they didn’t really explore before,” Nina Martinez says. “They realize that they can make a whole lot of money from people’s interests.”

- Dara Hakimzadeh

posted June 25, 2007

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     Queer music is red hot – just ask Lucas Silveira, the transgendered lead singer of Toronto rock band The Cliks.

     “I heard about a Nielsen scanner rating, or whatever they call it, a study that they did in the United States to find out how many people actually took in queer music and it was something like 25 percent,” he says.

     “Our music isn’t exclusive to a queer audience,” says guitarist Nina Martinez. “I think the difference is how businesses are approaching what artists have to offer.”

     “Rock and roll itself is queer – the whole history of rock and roll. I think now they realize there’s a solid core audience that they can market things to that maybe they didn’t really explore before,” she continues. “They realize that they can make a whole lot of money from people’s interests.”

     The band’s first independent self-titled album was passed on to Lisa Witman, Cyndi Lauper’s manager, on a plane. On a different flight, according to Silveira, Witman bumped into Rosie Lopez, the artist and repertoire director at Tommy Boy, who was exploring the idea of starting a label to showcase music that appeals to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community and they talked about the Cliks.

     “She listened to it but didn’t think it was ready enough. Then about a year and a half later, we recorded the second album and our manager now, Jake Gold, approached her and said, ‘I’ve got this band called The Cliks.’ She’s like, ‘I know them,’ so she listened to the album, she saw the growth,” says Silveira. Snakehouse, the band’s major label debut on TommyBoy/SilverLabel in the U.S. and Warner Music in Canada, came out this past April.

     “There was some sort of connection there that happened on the plane and continued,” says drummer Morgan Doctor. This month, the band takes part in five dates of the True Colors Tour, ironically spearheaded by Lauper, which hopes to raise public awareness of GLBT issues.

     “It’s a label that carries music that has what they would call a queer aesthetic. It’s kind of funny because Rosie thinks we’re more mainstream than queer, but there are people on her label that are not queer but they kind of play music like Cher,” says Silveira.

     Snakehouse’s songs were inspired by a series of life changing events for Silveira: the end of a six-and-a-half year relationship, the break up of the original Cliks lineup, his father had a stroke, his grandmother died and a friend was re-diagnosed with cancer.

     “Everybody goes through traumatic experiences and one day you’ll be sitting on the subway and you look at somebody who reminds you of somebody or an experience happens that totally reminds you of something you went through, like the sun setting a certain way or it’s that time of the year. You go through that and that’s just part of life. Maybe if it just happens enough I’ll keep writing the same album over and over and over again,” he says with a laugh.

     “I think that, in art, people can connect more to angst and pain than they connect to happiness because it’s an unfortunate reality but I think more people go through bad shit than good shit,” he continues. “And nobody wants to listen to somebody’s perfect life. I know I don’t. I’d be buying Barney albums if that were the case.”

     “I think it’s really important that, when you go through experiences, you kind of keep them with you so you don’t forget how you made it through. And I think they just build who you are,” he says, pointing to a tattoo on his arm that reads “survivor.” “But getting over it – I think I’ve jumped that hurdle and I think the album has definitely been an extremely cathartic experience.”

     The album’s title came from Silveira’s girlfriend’s father, who would say, “It’s a snake house in here,” when referring to the extreme heat in a room.

     “It just conjured this image in my head of a dark, slithery, wet, moist, hot place. And that, for me, was this dangerous ground that I felt in my head when I was writing half the songs,” he says.