THE CLIKS at Pride Stage North (Church and Gloucester), Sunday (June 27), 6 pm. Free. www.pridetoronto.com
Local garage pop powerhouse Lilia never would've dreamed up her gritty femme rock band if she weren't so pissed off with sissy stereotypes. The frontwoman of grrrl trio the Cliks, who threw herself into music cuz she rocked harder than her brother, worshipped Chrissie Hynde when she grew up out east. But when she moved to Toronto she recorded a solo CD at 23 as a songstress with an acoustic guitar.
"I was so bored with being this acoustic folkie singer/songwriter and constantly being compared to Sarah McLachlan. Ick!" she shudders.
Itching for a new outlet, the pixieish singer/songwriter snagged a bassist when Ezri Kaysen moved into her building, and tracked down drummer Heidi Chan through the kismet of Internet musician-wanted postings.
"Playing with them gave me the confidence to trust that little rock 'n' roller in me trying to get out," laughs Lilia.
Appropriately, the Cliks' music kinda sounds like what might happen if Chrissie Hynde and the Murmurs' Leisha Hailey fell in love, got Bowie to help out with insemination and gave birth to an indie rock love child. It's all kinda raw but sweetly melodic, with a ballsy cabaret swagger.
The Cliks don't fit into any of the typical queer musical categories: they don't have the in-your-face sexuality of a Peaches, the hippie-dippy granola vibe of the Indigo Girls, the militant rage of queercore crews like Tribe 8. They don't even have the self-conscious "Look at me, I'm queer!" vibe of an Ani DiFranco, which, it must be admitted, has functioned as a cathartic oasis for many a closeted teen.
But Lilia insists she maintains a queer aesthetic.
"But when I say 'queer' I don't mean gay. My music is as queer as David Bowie's or Annie Lennox's or Blondie's - who, oddly enough, are all straight.
"I don't feel that a lot of so-called 'gay' music is queer at all, cuz to me the essence of queer is something that pushes people's boundaries of perception in relation to the norm, and I don't feel that people like Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls or k.d. lang do that. Bands like Le Tigre or locals Scandalnavia are closer to what 'queer' music is about."
Back in 2002, Lilia was invited to play at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, that erstwhile bastion of separatist feminist culture that's raised hackles in recent years for its narrowminded refusal to allow transwomen on the land.
Although many artists boycott Michigan in outrage, Lilia took a different tack.
"During my performance I made a statement from the stage saying the policy was archaic and should be changed," she explains. "I actually got a super-positive response from most of the crowd, except for one bull dyke who hissed at me from the front row.
"Honestly, I think that if I had the status of, say, k.d. lang, refusing to play the show would have made an impact, but I was just a little songwriter from Toronto whose absence wouldn't've registered but whose presence might have."