AJ Michalka doesn’t want to go into detail about what happened that day in May 2020. Then again, she doesn’t really need to. Her song “Dead on the Beach” serves as a journal entry, its simple lyrics (“Dead on the beach / you’re on your phone”) and eerie, stripped-down chords capturing her shock and trauma such that a listener understands it through osmosis.
AJ wrote the song in “one fell swoop” at her dad’s house in Laguna Beach, and it appears intact on the deluxe edition of Aly & AJ’s latest album, a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun, out February 11. Once you’ve heard it, it’s impossible to forget.
There are other hints in the lyrics to “Dead on the Beach”—“A man lifts me up / he brings me to the shade” conjures a distinct image—and at one point in our conversation, Aly Michalka, who wasn’t with AJ when whatever happened happened, describes trying to understand what her sister went through. She recalls a duality: accepting AJ’s version of events wholesale, but also thinking, “Are you sure? Really? You really think that you died?”
At first, AJ didn’t think she’d write about that day at all. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know if I ever can,’” she tells me. But over time, and with prompting from Aly’s husband, Stephen Ringer, whom they lovingly call “the most positive, beneficial version of Yoko [Ono],” she decided it felt right. Technically, AJ is referring to the sisters’ next album when she says this—the as-yet-unnamed record they just recorded in a five-day sprint at Los Angeles’s Sunset Sound—but the line fits here too well to ignore. “That’s the goal,” she says, “more intimate, more intimate, more intimate.”
“More intimate” has become something of a maxim for the sisters as the musical project they started almost two decades ago continues to evolve. And it takes a certain bravery, especially for two people who experienced commercial success so young. Both Aly and AJ spun their child stardom into acting careers, but they were slower to return to music, stalling out for a while after a break with an early record label. Then, in 2017, their Ten Years E.P. brought them careening back onto the scene, and they’ve kept up their momentum ever since, all while hewing closer and closer to what feels authentic. They’ve experimented, taking their sound in a darker, dance-pop direction, then relaxing it into something more country-adjacent. With every release, they feel more like themselves.
“We didn’t always have complete and total freedom in what we wanted to do,” Aly says. “Now that we have that, all bets are off.” Continue reading Interview: Aly & AJ Are Taking Intimacy to the Next Level + ‘Way Way Back’ Live
Check out Aly & AJ’s feature for Imagista. Read the interview below and check out gorgeous pictures from the photoshoot.
It is one thing to be touring the globe; it is another thing to be doing it with your best friend and sister. Aly and AJ have found success both on screen as individuals and on stage as a music duo. Their kind and lovable disposition combined with their raw and undeniable talent is what makes these sisters so special. We had the chance to catch up with them and learn a little more about what pushes them as well as what makes them such positive role models.
Imagista: Where did u guys grow up?
AJ: We grew up in Southern California, we were born and raised in LA for most of our lives. We did spend a chunk of our childhood in Seattle Washington for seven years as kids. My family wanted to be closer to the rest of our family but due to our fathers business, which was located in LA, we ended up back in California.
Imagista: Do you feel like growing up in LA had an impact on your choice of career?
Aly: It was our love for entertaining and performing together in church and school that really sparked that fire in us. It wasn’t because we lived in LA. We started out pretty young. We were about six and eight years old when we started taking acting classes.
Imagista: Who is older?
Aly: Me, I am two years older.
Imagista: Did you start performing at the same time?
Aly & AJ: Yeah!
AJ: I think Aly being the older sister really inspired me because as the younger sister I would want to do what she was doing. It became a clear passion for both of us at a young age and we knew this is what we wanted to do but we didn’t know we would be doing it as a profession.
Imagista: You guys have had so much success as together and also individually, how does that work? How do you balance your individual careers and your duo?
Aly: It can be. A lot of the time we need to talk about it together and decide what we can do and what we can’t do. For us, we manage it, because we are really close and we feel like we could make those tough decisions together. When Aj is filming a TV show I am at the mercy of her when it comes to music but that’s okay because I know that and we work around it. Continue reading Aly & AJ: Imagista Feature – Photoshoot + Interview
Check out this great interview and gorgeous photoshoot with Aly & AJ for Schön! Magazine.
Sister duo Alyson and Amanda Michalka, best known by their on-stage moniker Aly & AJ, erupted into the music scene 14 years ago with their debut studio album, Into the Rush — and have been constantly providing us with bops since then.
As the OG double-double-threat, both Aly and AJ have had a longstanding acting careers in Hollywood with credits ranging from Disney Channel’s Phil of the Future to Six Feet Under, Two and a Half Men, iZombie, Steven Universe and even Netflix’s animated queer hit She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. But, with their Disney days long behind them, the pair has patently blossomed into confident women and their highly-anticipated new EP, Sanctuary, is the perfect testament to that.
The EP’s first offering, “Church,” already heralded a new era for the duo — one that’s superbly mature, sublimely upraised, and subduedly fervent — and the second, “Don’t Go Changing,” only reinforced that. With Sanctuary finally dropping today and the duo currently immersed in their headlining tour across the U.S. — that will shortly also be touching European soil —, we catch up with the sisters to talk about their past, future, their influences and finding sanctuary.
First of all, happy belated birthday to you both! I’ve been following you guys since your Disney and Into the Rush days so it’s only fair to ask: having stepped into the industry at such a young age, how do you feel you’ve matured both professionally and personally?
Both: Thank you! Hopefully by a lot! It’s crazy to think it’s been 20 years since we started in this industry. We feel like we’ve never been surer of who we are and what communities we want to find a way to support. This applies to our musical taste, our political beliefs, our skin care routine! We feel very fulfilled artistically right now, more so than ever before.
When did you know it was time to trade 78violet to Aly and AJ again? Do you regret the decision to ever change your name or do you feel it was part of finding yourselves?
Both: It was a necessary experience for us to go through as artists but I’m glad we’ve returned to recording under our names. It helps people find the records, even if some people dismiss the work before they hear it because they associate it with our teenage records. Although we’re still proud of those albums and think they’ve aged fairly well. We will always have very fond memories of making that music and it forms part of our growth as songwriters. Some of what we wrote has found new life among the very devoted fans. One of the songs forms a key scene in a film we made called Weepah Way for Now. We’re hoping our new songs will please old fans and gain us new ones. 78Violet may become something long term that fans can always unite around.
You came back after a ten-year hiatus. Music being such a big part of your life growing up, how did it feel to not work on music over that period of time? Was there an exact moment you realised you wanted to come back?
Aly: We did a lot of co-writing during that time with our dear friend and surrogate brother Mikey Einziger (of Incubus) which kept us in touch with the feeling of writing and being in a studio. Ultimately we would shy away from releasing anything because we were either too precious about it or just unsure how we would support the release. Mikey kept encouraging us along the way to get back out on the road, which AJ and I always missed but didn’t want to admit to ourselves. My husband was actually a huge part in us coming back to music. He saw how passionate we were about it still and that we really just needed to commit. We chose to seek guidance from Mike Elizondo who was a past collaborator on an unreleased record of ours. He’s wildly talented and his work speaks for itself. He set us up with two co-writers we just clicked with. We wrote all of Ten Years with the two of them and that started it all. Continue reading Schön! Magazine
Check out Aly & AJ’s new interview and photoshoot with Interview Magazine below!
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How Aly & AJ avoided the child star curse and invented a new sound
Aly and AJ Michalka (born Alyson and Amanda Michalka), a.k.a. the Y2K teen idols Aly & AJ, have journeyed from L.A. for their first New York fashion week. Aly, in particular, is a style maniac, although both arrived for this photo shoot in stunning outfits; AJ wore black patent leather pants that squeak when she walks. Despite busy days in press junkets and playing shows (they recently performed for Ferragamo at a party launching the brand’s new scent), the sisters seemed chipper, posing like professionals.
The occasion for their trip? After ten years spent focusing on acting projects—Aly stars on Veronica Mars-creator Rob Thomas’s iZombie, AJ on hit family sitcom The Goldbergs—the sisters Michalka have released an EP, appropriately titled Ten Years. The four-song EP, led by single “Take Me,” is a floaty wisp of confectionary dream-pop. The siblings call their music “nostalgic,” but it also smacks of the now, with an ’80s synth style re-popularized by producers like Dev Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid.
“To me it feels a little bit like a soundtrack to life, and I think that’s the most interesting part about the production,” says AJ. “I tend to lean towards songs that almost feel like they’re the score to a film, and I feel like this record really does that.”
In adulthood, the Michalkas have much more control over their work (the production of Ten Years was self-funded). Though they have always written their own songs, these are the tracks with which outside hands have interfered the least. “I think the most important thing is that we’ve really grown from being these 16- and 14-year-old songwriters that were writing about experiences that we [hadn’t had yet], like having a boyfriend or losing someone important in your life,” says Aly. “We were just writing those assuming what you would feel like if that happened to you.” Continue reading Interview Magazine