The sisters known simply by their first names — Aly and AJ — have grown far beyond being the adolescent pop starlets that fans first came to know. After last month announcing a name change — 78Violet — to fit their more mature musical sensibilities, the twenty-something duo did a Billboard Tastemakers session on Mophonics Studio’s Manhattan rooftop to perform brand new single, “Hothouse” and another new track, “Boy” and to talk about their new sound, natural style, and film careers.
Aly Michalka says the ethereal, wistful “Hothouse,” is particularly special, “because we wrote it with a dear friend of ours who we’ve been co-writing a lot with over the past couple years, Mike Einziger from Incubus.”
Aly says the song is also an indication of the more mature music to come on the pair’s upcoming album. They are “just really finding who our sound is now as older, adult artists instead of just young teenagers,” she says. “I think that our life experience was definitely a huge part of making the full album.”
Coming six years after launching their careers as Aly & AJ with 2007 debut album “Into the Rush” and Hot 100 charting singles “Chemicals React” and “Rush,” 78Violet has not only been busy recording new music, they’ve also been performing live and the reaction to the new material has been instantly positive, says AJ Michalka. At a recent New York show the day after ‘Hothouse’ was released, “people already knew the lyrics… It was really, actually emotional for Aly and I because I look out at the audience and this is what we’re doing it for. It’s for them. And to see that response back is overwhelming. It’s incredible.”
78Violet, whose members are both fans of vintage jewelry, share that stage style is just as key to their live show as the music itself, and keeping outfits natural is key. “I’d rather be more comfortable,” says Aly. “It makes you a better performer.”
But the musical stage is not the only place the sisters find themselves in the public eye, both are actresses with films in the pipeline. Aly appears in a “fun, small cameo role” in the comedy “Grown Ups 2” out this month. AJ is set to star in “Grace Unplugged,” a movie due in October which she describes as “a music originated film and my character plays four songs in the movie, so I’m able to have a piece of the soundtrack. I love the film. I love how it turned out. It’s really heartwarming and sweet.”
As the 78Violet album approaches — though it currently doesn’t have a set release date — Aly points out that for now, the focus is their listeners. “This moment for us is really just connecting with the fans and making sure that we’re reaching out to them in a one on one situation where they’re able to spread the music to people that haven’t heard of our stuff yet,” she says. “It is always exciting when you get new fans.”