Los Angeles praise band WAL – short for “We Are Loved” – crafted their latest record with mass appeal.
The young adult Catholic coordinators of the parish ministry of youth and music who make up WAL recently released a mass-based EP, said singer Matthew Leon. Formerly known as The Jacob and Matthew Band, WAL has released a full album and two EPs, including “Always and Everywhere,” which features six songs inspired by Mass.
The title clipping takes its name from this phrase from the Eucharistic prayer: “Father, almighty God and ever living, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.
While there is a lot of contemporary Christian music, not much of it is directly based on the Catholic Mass, says Leon.
“We wanted to be able to offer contemporary music, but which could be played at mass,” he adds.
In addition to Leon, the members of WAL are Leon’s brother, Michael Paul Leon on guitar and vocals, David Stanton on keyboards and piano, Paul VanDeRiet on drums and Derrick Wong on bass.
WAL will perform at various times throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles City of Saints Teenage Conference August 4-6 at UCLA. To learn more about the conference, visit cityofsaints.org.
For City of Saints, WAL will be joined by guitarist Geoff Gross as well as singer Monica Leon, brother of Matthew and Michael Paul. Alma Leon, Matthew’s wife, is the group leader.
Rock of ages
Matthew Leon credits singers such as Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Michael Jackson for the inspiration for his ballad-centric singing style, and adds that the group draws inspiration from groups such as Switchfoot and U2.
Meanwhile, WAL’s albums reveal a variety of influences from Coldplay and Bruce Hornsby to various types of soft rock, shoegaze, and singer-songwriters. Formed in 2001, the group performs approximately 20 times a year and has brought their music to events across the United States, as well as Canada and Brazil.
Highlights include a performance at World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Leon said, noting that at one point the group performed in front of 10,000 people.
“It was a little scary at first,” says Leon. “But from the moment we started playing, the nerves were gone.”
Part of the reason the group could handle such a large audience is that WAL sees its listeners as fellow travelers on the faith road.
“These guys help us pray, and we pray with them,” says Leon.
He adds that the group’s ministry doesn’t stop when the music stops. After her performances, WAL members will gladly take the time to answer fans’ questions and pray with them if asked. Young people are interested in everything from how the group was formed to how group members live out their faith, he says.
“We are the hands and feet of Christ,” he said. “Being able to serve people behind the scenes keeps us grounded in our vision. “