Canadian pop rockers THE KRY have been tenaciously spreading the Gospel since 1992. Tony Cummings reports.
The news that The Kry will be one of the acts flying in to Devon to appear at this year's Creation Fest makes a study of the band's significant contributions to CCM history long overdue. In fact, The Kry are a band of rock music pioneers who despite some truly excellent albums down the years have never quite fitted into the Nashville CCM star enclave. Maybe it's because they're outsiders, they're from the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec. Or maybe it's because The Kry's passion for ministry means you're as likely to find them in some far flung corner of the world practicing full on evangelism as touring America's lucrative CCM circuit. I met up with the band's lead singer and founder member Jean-Luc Lajoie in the Cafe at a previous Creation Fest. He began our conversation by confirming that he is an evangelist at heart. "The gift of evangelism is what I treasure. I have that in my heart to always share the Gospel. That's why if I am not the official speaker I kind of want to respect the time where somebody will get up there and do the full deal - explain how sin started with Adam and Eve and what God did to fix the problem.. But for me, if I'm given 40-45 minutes of time to share in songs and in words, I want them to know there is a way to Heaven. Of course I realise I have been gifted with songs and music so there is also that part of me where it is the prophetic thing with words. Then, I have a huge heart for worship. I lead worship everywhere I can. So the worship is a big thing too. But evangelism is my passion."
A world traveller, Jean-Luc is very aware of the difficulties in communicating the message of Christ, particularly in a Gospel-hardened country like Britain. He commented, "People in the UK have forgotten a bit about their background, the great preachers that came from here, the great revivals that we have seen here. A few years ago I was taking the Tube at London to go from the airport to where I was staying. We had our suitcases, rolling them onto the Tube, and this older lady said, 'What are you guys doing here?' I said we are musicians, we are missionaries, we are here to evangelise England. She said, 'We don't need you here, go back to Africa!' I said, 'No ma'am!' I said, 'This place needs any evangelists who want to come by. Africa needs it, Canada, even the United States, every country in the world needs evangelism.' So she was a little bit taken aback that I would be here for that. I said, 'I am here to remind everybody and you, by the way, to remind you that Jesus is the Saviour and there is no other Saviour. I don't know if you believe, but ma'am you too have to be reminded of that.' That was seven or eight years ago, I remember thinking this is where the climate of England is!"
The roots of The Kry go back to the late '80s when singer/guitarist Jean-Luc Lajoie and his drummer brother Yves left Quebec City to find fame and fortune in America's rock'n'roll industry. The one person they knew in the US lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So that is where the twosome headed. In 1997 Yves told CCM magazine what happened next. "We didn't have much confidence. We were stepping into the unknown. We came for the music, just hoping that we were going to make it big. We played the bar scene in Albuquerque for about a year, just trying to learn English and getting ready to make the big move to Hollywood."
"I remember thinking that it just seemed like the music was going nowhere," Jean-Luc continued. "Even if we did get this big break in the music industry, I had a feeling it wasn't going to satisfy me. We had so many internal problems with the band and our egos were getting so big that I felt that even if we did get very popular, we wouldn't survive for very long. I think we did have a sense of emptiness and vanity while we were trying to reach our goal."
Meanwhile, Jean-Luc made an interesting discovery while tuning across the radio dial one day: he heard the Gospel. Youth pastor Pete Nelson, a man who would become an integral part of the Lajoies' future, took up the Lajoie brothers' story, "[After] Jean-Luc head the Gospel, he visited the church where I was working and gave his life to Christ. A few months after that, his brother Yves committed his life to Christ as well. When these guys came to Christ, they laid down their music. They were willing to put it aside forever. Now I was always looking for people to help out in the youth ministry, especially in the area of music. I was playing guitar for the purpose of leading worship, doing praise songs and things like that. They were gracious to come and serve in the youth ministry, and that's where we became friends. We really had no intention of being a band, but by being in ministry together we started writing together, and one thing led to another."
Thus began The Kry, with Jean-Luc on bass, Yves on drums and Pete originally on keyboards, then switching to guitar. Demo tapes of original songs were cut and attracted the attention of a Christian record label. Suddenly, the group found themselves with a recording contract. The Kry's debut album, 1992's 'I'll Find You There' on Asaph Records, was produced by Jesus music pioneer and harmonica player extraordinaire Darrell Mansfield. It had plenty of rock'n'roll power with Jean-Luc's gritty but soulful singing bringing lots of edge to the proceedings.
Over the next few years The Kry, keen to minister the Gospel wherever they could, toured extensively. As well as the UK the rock trio played France, Greece, Russia, Australia, Serbia, Germany and Hungary. A couple of their songs even made it into Hungary's mainstream chart. They recorded albums with Freedom Records as well: 'You', 1994; 'Unplugged, 1995; 'What About Now?, 1996 and 'La Compilation', 1999. The latter was a French language item. The Kry have a real heart for Canada's French speakers. Said Jean-Luc, "I live in the US but my heart is Christian, so to me my home is truly in Heaven. But if there is a place on the planet I feel more at home, then it's not actually in the US, it's in Canada. When I cross the border or if I fly and land in Montreal or Toronto or Vancouver, I feel like I am home, and it could be five years or two years, but it's still a place where I feel very much at home. We actually do an outreach in Canada every year. We try to do five to six cities in the Province of Quebec and it's a ministry called The Max Ministry which we started four years ago. We want to outreach French Canadian people. We want to reach out to everybody whenever we can but we have a heart obviously for our people, where we are from. The French Canadians are totally un-reached. There is a statistic that says there is about 0.07 per cent of the population that is Christian but there are seven million French Canadians. So there's a huge field and for us, being French Canadians, we have a heart for these people."
In 2000 The Kry recorded 'Let Me Say', their last album for Freedom. One attention-grabbing song on that project was "Cassie's Song" based on a note written by Cassie Bernall some time before she was murdered in the Columbine shootings. One friend of Cassie, the day of the funerals, gave the note to Jean-Luc and asked him to try to write a song with the words she had penned. The Kry had always been one of the girl's favourite group. By the time The Kry had signed to Crystal Lewis' Metro 1 Music the group had undergone some changes. Pete Nelson had left the group and Jean-Luc and Yves brought in bassist David Roy and guitarist Danny Donnelly. The resulting album 'Undone' was excellent with one cut, the haunting "Beautiful" getting plenty of Cross Rhythms radio play. But the line up didn't last. By the time The Kry recorded their 2004 independent release 'God Of Infinite Worth', the group's official line up was down to a duo, its core members Jean-Luc and Yves. Today The Kry are back to a four piece, with bassist Nick Rodriguez and guitarist Steve Marcia filling out the line up.
God is still using The Kry. And with songs as powerful as the haunting, worshipful "Faithful" from 'God Of Infinite Worth', recently named by Christianity Today magazine one of the outstanding worship albums of the year, it is clear that the band have plenty of creativity left in the tanks even if they've kind of side stepped the attention of today's crop of Nashville movers and shakers. Jean-Luc is convinced today's CCM industry has lost a lot of its early purity of focus. Jean-Luc commented, "When CCM started in the '70s the whole thing was kind of fresh, you know. It was really a lot more about Jesus I think. The Gospel is the power of God onto salvation, that's the message itself. Share it through reggae or disco or rap, or rock'n'roll or heavy metal, whatever, you want to do. But put it in there because that's where the power is at. Sometimes I don't know what the whole Nashville scene is at but I think it's very often geared towards man's performance, man's accomplishment - you know, looking at sales and who is big and all that. I don't think that's necessarily bad, I think it's ok and fine to sell albums. But there should be a return I think to the simplicity of doing it to genuinely expand God's Kingdom. That motive is down to each individual to do their part. I remember the words, I think they were from a preacher from England, who said, 'If you want a revival you start with yourself.' I want me, I want my own life and my own ministry to be on fire. To be really in the right place and then hopefully that will be an encouragement for others to include more ministry and their music will become powerful. You guys know, that's why you guys do what you do. You understand the power of music. The Bible says if you seek first the Kingdom of God then all these other things will be added onto you. Not necessarily you will be the best band and you will win the 'best rock album of the year' or whatever. But God will add to you what he needs to add to you. The Bible says, you know, there will be some surprises on who really accomplished much. I speak for myself, I want to do what's right and I want God to say, 'Well done, you've been a faithful servant."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.