Aly and AJ Michalka — also known as Aly & AJ — are out with a fresh sound on their latest album, “With Love From.” The sisters used an echo chamber to process the vocals, which signifies a shift for the former Disney stars as they explore a new musical territory.
“It feels like a migration. I mean, it feels like we’re getting like a second chance in our music career,” AJ told CBS News.
With the release of their new album this week comes a fresh tour, giving the duo — now in their early 30s — a chance to connect with fans who were younger when they first discovered their music.
Aly was 15 and AJ was 13 when they signed to Disney’s Hollywood Records label in 2004. During the audition, they performed six original acoustic guitar tracks they had written in their bedroom, sitting on the floor, AJ said.
They rose to fame as pop stars and became teen idols, thanks to hits like “Potential Breakup Song” and their roles in the Disney film “Cow Belles.”
They said that throughout their growing careers, they were always persistent.
“We were always still brave enough to just raise our hand and … [ask], ‘Can we do this?’ And, I think I’m sure at some point it drove people nuts … But I think that at the end of the day, though, people knew that we really cared,” Aly said.
Eventually, they wanted a change. Seeking to distance themselves from their Disney-like image, they changed their band name to 78violet in 2009. But their music career faltered, and two albums were shelved.
“To be completely honest, I think we were trying to figure out what our voice was as adult women,” Aly said.
AJ described it as “a bit of an identity crisis.” For a decade, the sisters remained musically silent while continuing to act.
Then, they recorded the song “Pretty Places.”
“I feel like that song is what has, like, totally brought us back to who we are,” said AJ.
It wasn’t the only thing that brought the sisters back into the spotlight. After “Potential Breakup Song” gained popularity on the social media app TikTok, Aly & AJ recorded a new version with a more mature sound.
“In our early twenties, if you said, ‘Hey, will you sing the song?’ We’d kind of be like— roll our eyes,” Ally said. “And we’ve kind of revamped it in this new way. So, it’s actually really cool.”
Aly & AJ performed at two major music festivals, Lollapalooza in 2021 and Austin City Limits in 2022. They experienced a scary moment when their tour bus was caught in the crossfire of a mass shooting last year in Sacramento, where six people were killed and multiple others were wounded. They said they were not hurt but found shell casings in their trailer.
The shooting motivated them to write a song about the incident as a way to heal, although they’re not sure they will ever release it.
Aly & AJ are hitting the road again this month, leaving their Disney days further behind them. Their sisterly bond remains their superpower, along with their individuality.
“We think for each other in a weird way. So, I’m just like, ‘AJ will agree to this.’ So, I’m speaking for her, and she’ll do the right thing for me,” Aly said.
“That’s true,” AJ said. “And then sometimes, we have to be like, ‘but let’s show each other respect.”
“And that there is individualism here still,” Aly said.