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Lesbian Artist B.C. Cliver Wants to Rock

Lesbian Artist B.C. Cliver Wants to Rock

B.C. Cliver attributes much of her love of music back to her parents, who would sing around the house. Drawing from a plethora of musical styles and after being operatically trained, Cliver found her passion in rock. In her interview with SheWired, Cliver talks about her parents, her training, and her band, B.C. Three.

B.C. Cliver's a hot butch musician who's made a home in San Francisco who attributes much of her love of music back to her parents, who would sing around the house. Drawing from a plethora of musical styles and after being operatically trained, Cliver found her passion in rock. In her interview with SheWired, Cliver talks about her parents, her training, and her band, B.C. Three.

You’ve been singing publicly since you were 11 and writing songs since you were 12, how did you become interested in music?

I grew up with music as a big part of our home and daily life. My father sang and played guitar and violin, and my mother sang. They were also big fans of a wide variety of music. We listened to everything from classical orchestral works, to the jazz greats of the '30s, '40s and '50s, to show tunes, folk music from various countries, R & B, Motown. You name it, we had some kind of recording of it! My folks took us to a wide variety of concerts as kids, too.

Somewhere along the line, I just thought it would be fun to start singing with my parents. As a young child, my mother used to take me on errands with her regularly, and she'd teach me some of the songs she'd learned when she was younger. It just seemed natural for me to want to learn more.

You trained as an operatic contralto but you say your heart and soul is in hard rock. Was that an easy or natural transition for you musically?

I actually had my first voice lesson at the age of 11, in conjunction with a school musical I was in. I loved learning more about how the voice worked in a classical context, but as I had been around so many different types of music, and mostly listened to rock on the radio, I wanted to be able to do it all! Yes, I was precocious! Even through my music studies in college, I was always in love with rock, especially hard rock, and the feeling and aggressive freedom it allowed. My voice teachers weren't thrilled with this, but they figured that as long as my technique was good and that I didn't do any damage to my instrument, they'd leave me be.

As I got older, and both my sexuality and my gender presentation headed toward, let's say, different from the norm, hard rock and I became pretty much inseparable. I still enjoy singing other genres and enjoy listening to almost anything if it's well done, but rock and I are best friends!

I read in your bio that you have been a part of a few bands. What is it like having your own band, B.C. Three?

Having your own band is a lot of fun, and a WHOLE lot of work! I always kind of got to "coast" with my other bands, since I was only in charge of having my own parts memorized and showing up on time for practice and shows. With my own band, I'm the bandleader, lead guitarist, lead vocalist, lead songwriter, head arranger, manager, booking agent, and publicist all in one. Anyone who thinks doing all this is easy can feel free to come see me and give me a helping hand! [Laughs] It's kind of like having a second full-time job in addition to my current work. However, I love what I'm doing, and my guys seem to really appreciate me as well. They've been stepping up to help with whatever they're good at (graphics, web presence, recording for demos, cover song ideas, etc.), and it's really a dream crew to work with!

Where did the band name come from?

I actually used to be in another band a few years ago that never really got off the ground. The guys I was working with then decided we should be called B.C. Three, since I was the featured songwriter and there were 3 of us in the band. When we finalized the roster for my current band, we were sitting around during a rehearsal break one afternoon trying to come up with a name, and I mentioned the previous band and name. I also said that I felt like it was a bit pretentious naming the band for myself. My guys would have none of it, though; they insisted that we become B.C. Three, even though there's actually four of us! Five, if you count the fact that my wife sings backing vocals on some songs.


What is the band dynamic like?

It's kind of entertaining, since it's me, a half-Black butch dyke and three white guys. My guitarist Dave is also gay. But, if you listen to the four of us hanging out at a show, or goofing around during rehearsal, you'd swear that we were all friends who'd grown up together! Our personalities are all very different, but we've never even had what you'd call an argument! Everyone holds up their end, and rehearsals are amazingly productive. As a result, when we hit the stage, if we all seem like we're having a total blast, you're right: we are! We want to make sure that the audience is having at least as much fun as we are.

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You made a video for the It Gets Better Project using one of your songs, what prompted you to create the video?

It actually happened on kind of a lark. On a ride home from the gym, I was talking with a friend who's in film school, and during an unrelated conversation, he suddenly said, "You know, we should make a video! Let's do a band video!" Of course, being no fool, I said, "OK! What should we do?" He had me figure out which song, and the one I chose, "Don't Let Them Tell You Who You Are," seemed like a natural. I was definitely bullied as a kid, and when we figured out the overall plot and context for the shoot, I wanted to make sure that the It Gets Better project was one of the places we submitted it.

What made you choose your song “Don’t Let Them Tell You Who You Are,” for the video?

It's actually a song I wrote when I was performing with a group of African-American butches/studs in a show called "On a Butch Tip", a few years ago. I wanted to write something about myself that included many of my various facets, but one that was fun and catchy as well as a song that would make you think. Since it's basically a song for and about anyone who's pointedly different from what would be considered society's norms, it felt like it would be the one that was the most fun to bring to life.

Beyond music I’ve read that you’re also a certified personal trainer. What brought that on?

Before I moved out here [San Francisco] from Wisconsin, I had started to lift weights as a way to improve my strength and overall health. It helped me get girls, too! After moving here, I had a few physical labor jobs, but decided that I was more interested in helping other folks get strong and healthy. I had a friend talk me into being in the 2nd Gay Games in 1986, in the bodybuilding competition. I didn't place, but I made the finals, and I was hooked! After a few more years of working various jobs and training people part-time on the side, I got my ACSM certification, and went into training full time. However, the music has always been there, waiting for me to make time for it.


Where do you see yourself going in the future? Any big performances or appearances coming up?

I'm well aware of the fact that I'm no longer a kid. I also know that if I don't follow what I've wanted to do all along and become a professional musician, I'll always feel like I missed out on a major part of my life! I've decided to take what most pop or rock musicians would consider major liabilities, age, looks, gender presentation, voice type, and turn them into my biggest assets. I want to see how far my band and I can go. I want to see how many people I can make happy, how many minds I can influence, and how many lives I can change with my music.

We'll be opening for the Sunday of Tidal Wave, an all-metal festival going on in San Francisco in July. (I think it's July 7-8.) Other than that, we don't have anything major coming up, but I've put in submissions to San Francisco Pride for the main stage, Sonoma Pride, Folsom St. Fair, and Castro St. Fair. I'm also hoping to start getting some more regular gigs in and around the San Francisco Bay area. Obviously, if someone wants to pay for us to travel, we're more than willing to say "yes" to other places, too! We want to be heard!

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