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Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF
Band Christian Gospel




"Montreal Gazette (Cover Story): Just four guys spreading the gospel - of gay rights, feminism and love"

"If Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir ever perform in the Bible Belt, they'll want to bring a documentary film crew" - Montreal Gazette

"Montreal International Jazz Festival 2012: Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir in the Heineken Tent; July 4 2012"

Recordings of right-wing, hate-mongering evangelists like Pat Robertson filled the Heineken Tent. Hey, wait a sec! This was not the warm, fuzzy, jazz-fest vibe we have come to depend on.

But the crowd was quickly reassured. “Just to be clear, we are the exact opposite of all that,” announced The Profit, the lead singer of Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir. That was just in case the audience at the group’s second free outdoor show on Wednesday had missed the sign in front of the stage: “And on the 7th Day, Man Created God.” - Montreal Gazette

"Montreal Mirror: Irreverend James & the Critical Mass Choir spread a new word"

“I don’t tend to divulge my real name,” says Baptiste, lead vocalist for gospel quartet Irreverend James. “Baptiste is the stage name I’ve been using for about 10 years.” Baptist, along with the rest of the group, has a stage name within this band as well.

“We want to make it more about the ideas than the people in it,” he explains.

Baptist, aka the Profit, along with bassist John the Bassist, pianist Hereticus Monk and drummer Little Drummer Boy, perform a combination of original gospel and standards, with a twist.

“At first it was just about playing the standards. And then we started tweaking the lyrics and changing them around. Then we started writing music—that was the beautiful part for me, how eas­ily the songs wrote themselves. Now you can hardly differentiate between a standard and one of ours.”

The group, who released their first EP, The Introduction, in June, celebrates the spirit of traditional gospel, but with a contemporary message.

“[Gospel] comes from slavery, right? The only time the slaves were allowed to congregate was at church on Sunday. Today it’s more about gays being oppressed, women being oppressed, it’s a dif­ferent struggle, but what [the slaves] went through, we’re trying to apply to the modern world.”

Admittedly, his love affair with gospel has been a rocky one.

“Years ago, I was in a couple of gospel choirs, but I’m not a religious person. So people were feeling Jesus through me, but I felt like a bit of a hypocrite, like I was in a club that thought I was some­thing I wasn’t.”

Still, when John the Bassist approached him about forming a group, he knew the style of music he wanted to perform.

“I don’t know any other kind of music that has the same joy, the same vocals and the interaction between the audience and the people on stage. That’s why we often say in our shows, we are Irrev­erend James but you are the Critical Mass Choir.”

Essentially, the choir consists of audience members who know the songs.

“That’s what our show on the 24th is all about, creating this pseudo-choir where people learn some of the songs and then get into the show for free. A lot of people love to sing but don’t want to sign up for a choir because it’s too time-consuming. With us, you come in and we have some songs with parts that are really easy to learn, so just sing along.”

And while the band has a message, it’s not trying to brainwash anyone.

“Most churches are probably hoping to bring you into a dogma—we’re hoping to bring you out of it. You can remain Christian but have an open mind, be critical, don’t be stuck in one mindset. That’s why we call it the Critical Mass Choir, because it’s sort of a mass, but we want it to be critical.

“And we’re not trying to convert anyone to anything. There’s a message, but that’s secondary. It’s like when you see a really good movie; it’s entertaining, but you’re still thinking about it the next day. We want the message to hit you the next day. But when you leave the show, we want you to have a broad smile on your face because you had a fantastic church-like time. - Montreal Mirror

"Save a Prayer"

When you think of a gospel choir, three things typically come to mind: a church, an inspiring group of singers with miraculous voices, and the word “hallelujah.” (Stop thinking about Leonard Cohen – focus!) The music world, and truly, the art world en masse, is evolving alongside an increasing secular shift, which makes it hard to pinpoint where exactly gospel music stands outside of a religious context. Does gospel even exist beyond church doors, beyond songs that praise God and denounce sins, or even beyond faith? Can a non-believer ever be welcomed into the choir?
The answer, my fellow latent gospel goers, is yes. Proving so is Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir, a Montreal-based quartet that define themselves as a “secular, rabble-rousing, queer-positive, feminist, subversive gospel music band.”
Gospel music is meant to unify people through stories of triumph over human struggles, which is precisely what compelled the group to embrace the genre. “Traditional gospel music is the happiest, most engaging and awe-inspiring music about struggling that you’ll ever hear,” says front-man/preacher, The Profit. “It deals with overcoming the insurmountable. It is joyous without being cheesy. That’s the spirit in which we’ve tackled it. Not as a message to God so much as a message to mankind: Help, don’t hinder.”
With uplifting musical arrangements and soaring vocals, Irreverend James is loyal to the age-old gospel sound. We hear the chants, we hear the wails and we hear the cries of joy. But what distinguishes them most from typical gospel groups are the satirical undertones embedded in almost everything they do, from their stage names (The Profit, John the Bassist, Hereticus Monk and Little Drummer Boy) to their lyrics. “We deal in poking fun at the arrogance of man in respect to God.”
Be wary, dear readers, of what exactly is being said here. The band is not making a joke out of God, nor do they intend to disrespect anyone’s religious beliefs. Their songs aim to put a sardonic spin on extremist dogmas. This approach is not always well received, and the band has had their fair share of disapproving criticism. “Problem is, some people don’t have a sense of humour. Particularly when it comes to their own religion. Which, as everybody knows, is the only true religion.”
Despite the occasional naysayer, Irreverend James has a glorious following of enthusiasts. This can be partially attributed to the open-door recruitment policy they extend to anyone (yes, anyone) who wishes to have a go at choir singing. “One thing that made gospel music is its inherent audience participation,” says The Profit. “So we decided to tap into that by offering people online tutorials on harmonies they could sing if they felt up to it.” This is the element of the band that justifies the “Critical Mass Choir” portion of their name. Not only do they sing about our mighty plights, but they welcome everyone to join in on the musical dialogue. Singing for the people, with the people.
More than simply being secular, Irreverend James are also inclusive. Their ultimate mission is to funnel hope through music to believers and non-believers alike. “[No] matter your background, status or trials, the sentiment expressed back then will always ring true to anyone who has struggled. ‘Keep your hand on the plow. Hold on.’ Stay true. Stand tall. This too shall pass.”
Amen to that. - Rover Arts

"Review: Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir: The Introduction"

Page 25: - Baron Mag

"Irreverend James participe au Halloween Hootenanny avec Lake of Stew" - Quebec Spot Media

"Interview on CBC TV"

Interview on CBC News with Arts Reporter Anna Asimakopulos on June 8, 2011 to preview EP Launch @ Divan Orange. - CBC Television Montreal

"Ever heard of Secular Gospel music? Well, you have now."

Ever heard of Secular Gospel music? Well, you have now. Meet three of the four gentlemen in Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir: The Profit, John The Bassist, and pianist Hereticus Monk. Think their names are entertaining? Take a listen and keep reading:

- Sonicbids Blog

"Interview on CKUT Radio (90.3 FM)"

"Sing it like you mean it. Irreverand James and the Critical Mass Choir makes music your new religion. Bold and true with soul."

Liz Pieries

Producer & Host
Monday Morning After Show, CKUT 90.3 FM
- CKUT Radio

"Interview on Temoignages" -

"Midnight Poutine Podcast"

"They do old-time Gospel music set to a modern wraps you in, it pulls you in, it's really smart." - Midnight Poutine Podcast


The Introduction EP - June 2011



Gospel music began as a cry for freedom. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from brutality. Freedom from shame. And Irreverend James are bringing it back to its roots.

Through barn-burning live performances, Irreverend James offer the joyful experience of gospel music, with the crescendos, call-and-answer, and outright jubilation you'd find in a 1940's small wooden Mississippi-delta church. Only secular.

Their “Godless” gospel music speaks out against injustice, inequality, and persecution inspired by, and according to, religious doctrine and dogma, touching on themes of racism, feminism, and gay rights.


BOOKING: Bonsound
PUBLICITY: Bonsound Promo