Los Angeles praise band WAL – short for “We Are Loved” – designed its latest record with Mass appeal.
The young adult Catholic parish youth and music ministry coordinators who make up WAL recently released an EP based on the Mass, says Matthew Leon, vocalist. Formerly known as The Jacob and Matthew Band, WAL has released one full-length album and two EPs, including “Always and Everywhere,” which features six songs inspired by the Mass.
The title cut takes its name from this sentence in the Eucharistic Prayer: “Father, all-powerful and ever living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Although there is a lot of Contemporary Christian Music out there, not much of it is based directly on the Catholic Mass, Leon says.
“We wanted to be able to offer music that is contemporary, but that could be played at Mass,” he adds.
In addition to Leon, WAL’s members 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 play at various times throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ City of Saints Teen Conference Aug. 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, Matthew and Michael Paul’s sibling. Alma Leon, Matthew’s wife, serves as the group’s manager.
Rock of ages
Matthew Leon credits such vocalists as Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Michael Jackson for inspiring his ballad-centric style of singing, and adds the band draws inspiration from such groups as Switchfoot and U2.
Meanwhile, WAL’s albums reveal a variety of influences from Coldplay and Bruce Hornsby to various soft rock, shoegaze and singer-songwriter types. Formed in 2001, the group performs about 20 times a year, and has brought its music to events throughout the United States, as well as Canada and Brazil.
Highlights include performing at World Youth Day in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Leon says, noting at one point, the group played in front of 10,000 people.
“It was a little nerve-wracking at first,” Leon says. “But from the moment we started playing, the nerves went away.”
Part of the reason why the band could handle such a big audience is WAL sees its listeners as fellow travelers on the road of faith.
“These guys are helping us to pray, and we’re praying along with them,” Leon says.
He adds that the band’s ministry doesn’t end when the music does. Following its performances, WAL’s members will gladly take the time to field questions from fans as well as pray with them if asked. Young people are interested in everything from how the band got together to how the group’s members live out their faith, he says.
“We are Christ’s hands and feet,” he says. “To be able to minister to people offstage keeps us grounded in what our vision is.”