Sisters Aly & AJ started off their musical career at a young age, recording teen pop for Disney Channel movies and two late-2000s albums for Hollywood Records that feature the duo as chief songwriters. After achieving platinum status with their single “Potential Breakup Song” off 2007′s Insomniatic, Aly & AJ shifted gears founding their own label. After some time away, they reinvented themselves with a strong run of singles like 2017′s Take Me” and 2020′s “Joan of Arc on the Dancefloor” that explored both vintage synth and modern electronic pop. The duo then delivered a pair of albums that reinforced their postion as artists first, pop stars second; 2021′s the very California-sounding, ’70s rock and new wave-influenced A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun and 2023′s country-meets soft rock With Love From.
Aly & AJ — whose full names are Alyson and Amanda Joy Michalka — showed a passion for both kinds of performing at a very young age: they started playing piano at age six and began acting classes soon after. Born in L.A., the Michalkas moved to Seattle in the early ’90s, where their parents exposed them to a wide variety of music and supported their excitement about both acting and making music. As the girls learned piano and guitar, they also landed acting and modeling gigs, which prepared them to pursue both careers more seriously once the family returned to Southern California.
AJ Michalka won roles and appearances on shows as diverse as Birds of Prey, Oliver Beene, General Hospital, and Six Feet Under; Alyson earned the part of Keely Teslow on the Disney Channel series Phil of the Future, which allowed her to show off her musical skills as well as her acting chops, performing songs such as “Protecting Me.” As Aly & AJ, the Michalka sisters recorded a cover of the Lovin' Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic,” which appeared in the Disney Channel movie Now You See It and became a number one most-requested song on Radio Disney. Their follow-up single, “No One,” appeared on the soundtrack to 2005′s Ice Princess, and their Hollywood Records-issued debut album — which featured songs penned entirely by the Michalkas — dropped that same year. The holiday album Acoustic Hearts of Winter followed in 2006. In 2007, the sisters released their sophomore record, Insomniatic, accompanied by starring roles in the MTV movie version of the hit television show My Super Sweet 16. Insomniatic debuted at 15 on the Billboard Top 200 and its first single, “Potential Breakup Song,” peaked at 17 on its way to platinum certification from the RIAA.
Aly & AJ began work on a third album in 2008 with their eyes on a 2009 release, but the duo hit a series of snags with Hollywood Records. In July 2009, the pair switched their name to 78violet and announced they planned to have an album out in 2010, but that record never materialized. By February 2010, they’d left Hollywood. During the mid-2010s, the pair continued to work as 78violet, signing with Red Light Management in May 2013. Despite a flurry of recording and several shows, no recordings were released, and the sisters reverted to the name Aly & AJ in December 2015.
Nearly a decade after Insomniatic, Aly & AJ finally released new music in 2017: the synth pop-influenced single “Take Me,” whose parent EP, Ten Years, appeared in November of that year. The duo issued a pair of early 2019 singles, “Church” and “Don’t Go Changing,” and that May, the Sanctuary EP. They began a working relationship with producer Yves Rothman that carried over to two more synth pop singles from 2020, “Attack of Panic” and “Joan of Arc on the Dancefloor.” The various singles and EPs released during this phase were collected under the title We Don’t Stop, issued in November of 2020. Around this time, the sisters were shocked to discover that “Potential Breakup Song” had become something of a sensation on Tik Tok, with many people acting out the song in video. Inspired by this, Aly & AJ cut a new, explicit remake of it in December of 2020.
Meanwhile, the duo had been working on a batch of songs that took a more organic approach since early 2019, with Rothman and a small band of musicians at the legendary Sunset Sound studio. Inspired by the pop/rock sounds of California in the ’70s, A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun was released on the sisters’ own Aly & AJ Music label in early 2021 and featured an appearance by Heart’s Nancy Wilson on one track and numerous co-writes by L.A.-based indie popper Jorge Elbrecht. The duo played two concerts in 2021, then appeared at Lollapalooza. They also worked up a new batch of songs and with the help of Rothman, Elbrecht, and many other trusted collaborators who worked on Touch of the Beat, entered Sunset Sound for a week of recording where they tried to work as quickly as possible, capturing a live, imperfect feel. Soon after the session was complete, they issued a deluxe edition of Touch of the Beat that added four previously unreleased songs from the album sessions, then headed out on the road, playing shows throughout 2022 across the globe and ending with an appearance on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve telecast, where they performed at Disneyland. Just before that they issued the Fleetwood Mac-inspired title track from their forthcoming album With Love From. Co-produced by Rothman and Michalkas, the record is a departure from the synth-heavy, new wave sound of Touch of the Beat, instead the duo temper their sound with a healthy dose of pop country and a lrage serving of melancholy Mac-flavored soft rock. Soon after its release, the duo returned to the road on a headlining tour of American venues. ~ Heather Phares & Tim Sendra