by Jackie Torres (‘22) & Madeline Turner (‘23)
edited by Danny Alvarado-Gómez ('22)
Following the music video debut of “Listen!!!,” WVBR had the wonderful opportunity to (virtually) sit down and have a chat with iconic pop-rock duo Aly & AJ to talk all about their upcoming album, resonating with new audiences, and their work during the pandemic.
“Obviously our fans will be the ultimate true test, but at the end of the day we wanted to make a record that would make people feel good again, and feel like there was still hope for a brighter day ahead, whenever that might be,” say the Michalka sisters about their upcoming album.
At the time of the interview, the pair had just finished sequencing the songs and shooting the cover for their new record.
“The album feels like a collection of songs that feel really good when you’re listening to them, in terms of the energy and the joy that they should bring people,” Aly reveals. The first single to be released on the album, “Listen!!!” (which we covered here), definitely provides a feel-good, indie rock vibe that fits perfectly with the band’s Californian origin.
Much has changed since the release of their last Billboard 200 charting album, Insomniatic, in 2007. In the year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, significant portions of the entertainment industry have shut down, from live concert venues to recording studios. Fortunately for Aly & AJ, they had already completed a majority of their musical collaborations prior to the pandemic.
“We’re really grateful, because it would have been hard to have made a full record via Zoom,” says Aly.
In addition to technical challenges, COVID-19 has made it difficult for many artists to interact with their fanbase. “It's hard because Aly and I are the types of people who spend a couple of hours before we get on stage just connecting with our fans, and we don’t currently have that.”
However, the pair have found creative ways to stay in touch. “Aly and I have made a goal to just start randomly calling our fans,” says AJ. “There’s something about that engagement that everyone’s missing right now.”
The duo’s push to stay connected with fans has paid off, as Aly & AJ have recently found a new audience due to the overwhelming popularity of their 2007 hit “Potential Breakup Song” on TikTok.
“Some people are hearing the re-recorded version of “Potential Breakup Song” and thinking it’s a new track, even though it was recorded 13 years ago,” says AJ. “Gen Z has given a new breath to our fanbase.” The artists even started a TikTok page of their own. “It’s teaching us how to be artists in the 21st Century. It’s wild!”
Clearly, many aspects of the influential sisters’ music image have changed since the release of their last album, We Don’t Stop, in 2020. Becoming viral on TikTok, releasing a choreographed music video, and embracing their role as independent artists after their departure from Hollywood Records have all played a role in becoming the Aly & AJ we see today. They revealed that as young musicians, they were often “out of the loop” on many creative decisions, but now are happy to find themselves in charge of their art and its direction.
In July 2009, Aly & AJ officially changed their band name to 78violet. This was their indie debut, through which they released their album Hothouse and the single “Belong Here (Main Theme Title from Hellcats).” In February 2010, they officially parted from Hollywood Records, then signing to Red Light Management in May 2013.
In the years since the era of their music as 78violet, the duo took a break to focus on their careers as actors and move on to the next phases of their lives. Then, in 2015, the band decided to return to its original name with a whole new sound. Aly & AJ have since been enjoying working as independent artists, free from the restraint of record labels. However, they have stated in a Forbes interview that if the right person came to them that shared their vision and saw how to elevate it, they wouldn’t be against a partnership.
“That’s the best thing about being an independent artist–you decide,” says Aly. “We like having that responsibility… It feels like it’s your baby, [because] you’ve truly gone on this journey from beginning to end.” As the pair and their original fans have grown up, so has their music. “It causes a lot more stress, and you’re juggling a lot more, but at the end of the day the outcome is so much better, and you know you had a full say in it,” says the duo.
Check out Aly & AJ’s latest single on Spotify or YouTube and join their exclusive fanclub–known as the Sanctuary–on their website. Stay tuned to 93.5 WVBR-FM for Aly & AJ’s upcoming singles and take a look at our review of their latest music video, “Listen!!!” Their full 2021 album will be released this late spring.