It’s been 10 long years since we’ve had a new single from sisters Aly Michalka and AJ Michalka. (10 years too long, if you ask anyone who’s a fan of “Chemicals React,” “Potential Breakup Song,” and “Hothouse” — to name a few!)
But at long last, Aly & AJ have *officially* released “Take Me.”
It’s an energetic banger that we promise you’ll be playing over and over and over again!
In recent years, the sisters have pursued careers onscreen. Aly plays Peyton on iZombie, with AJ as Lainey on The Goldbergs, as a couple examples. But, the pair are very excited to return to their beginnings, to be making new music again after many years away. And speaking for Aly & AJ fans everywhere, the feeling is so mutual.
Here, Aly and AJ tell HelloGiggles how it feels to be creating music again, what their plans are for the future (they’d like to tour!), why they love working together as sisters, and how they feel looking back on their early hits.
HelloGiggles: It’s so great to have you back, making music again.
Aly Michalka: Thanks. It feels good to be back. It feels like it’s where we’re meant to be. It’s funny — and I mention him all the time, and AJ probably will be like, stop giving him credit because he’s like her big brother — but my husband [Stephen Ringer] did really give us the little nudge at least.
He’s not the one writing the music, but he gave us that acknowledgement that this is something we should be doing again. And we really look up to him because he’s super talented and comes from the film world. In a funny way, he’s always like, “I know acting is what is making you guys money and making our household money.”
AJ Michalka: And we love it.
Aly: We love both, but he’s like, “Music is really where it’s at, what you guys are naturally the most gifted at.” I was like, “Thanks?” I know what he means by it and I think that’s because that’s where we started and that’s just our heart.
AJ: It’s our first love. I’m so happy we took the break we took because now it’s so much more rewarding. It’s so satisfying to have that long gap.
Aly: You do take certain things for granted. Then, you see that those resources are not there for you and you go, “Wow, we were really fucking lucky when we were 13 and 15, touring on a huge bus.” We had these certain things at our fingertips because we were under a major label, and then you walk away from that.
I think we still are glad that we did that because I don’t know if we would be the people we are today if we hadn’t. Then you say, “Okay, the business has completely changed.”
AJ: You’re on your own.
Aly: Social media has taken over the world. YouTube did not really exist when we first started music. I mean, Myspace was up. That was the place to drop music, and YouTube was only maybe a year old at that point. For us, now, to be coming back when the entertainment business has changed so much is funny because we’re learning along with it.
I feel like our fans know more about what we should be doing. Like, “Oh, okay, we know why they’re dropping this.” I’m like, “Oh, wait. They get this? Oh yeah, okay.” They understand the strategy, whereas we need to be walked through a little bit with some of our people, which is funny. I guess it keeps us on our toes. We’re just happy to be back and that there’s still a fan base out there that wants the new music.
HG: How does it feel to be back creatively? Where are you at as musicians?
AJ: It feels really good. I’ve never been more proud of our writing. We readdressed the writing in May 2016. We were like, this is the opportunity to really start writing again and it came naturally. It wasn’t one of those things we had to push or shove or force. It was like we weren’t writing for a label. We weren’t writing for radio. We just wrote for ourselves and for our fans and just said let’s see what comes out. It really was a natural sound that came out, and it’s what we’ve stuck with on this EP — and you’ll hear it.
Aly: It was the most natural version of us writing music, other than the first record that we put out because we were complete newbies. We had never sat down [and made] a full album in a studio with a certain budget. That was very organic because we just came in and were like, “Hey, we have 15 songs.” Nine of them are going to stay on the record and we’ll write another half a dozen and, “Cool, we did it.” Then, you walk away and it all fell together. This, I think, is that version for us now.
AJ: It’s like we’re making our first record again.
Aly: We kind of were and we really opened up ourselves to creativity. I would say last January, that’s when we started at least talking about it. Then, we really put it into action, where we started teaming up with other co-writers — and that was last May. We’ve lived with the songs now for a year and a couple months and we’re still stoked on them, which says a lot about the material because usually, we’re over it pretty quickly.
I think a lot of artists struggle [with that] and we all probably do an either fantastic job at hiding it, or not a great job at hiding it — because you can tell that person’s not happy singing that song, but they’re doing it for the audience. I think most people put on the, “Okay. This is the song that everybody wants to hear. Let me play it.” Obviously, you don’t want to be that bitter artist that’s playing the song that you know everybody loves, but you’re over.
It’s very hard to authentically do that, but when it comes naturally and you’re still into the song, I don’t know how you catch the lightning in a bottle, but we’re in it right now. And we’re just like, “Okay, cool. Let’s keep this lasting as long as possible.”
AJ: We love our songs.
HG: Where is your music at thematically? What are you exploring with the single, and more broadly?
AJ: The single will be out [August 18th]. Then, the EP will be out in September. We’re going to release the music video for the single. It will come out a couple weeks after the single. Then from there, we’re going to keep writing. So we’re going to ride the EP for a bit. It’s just a taster of the new sound. I’d love to bang out 12 songs immediately to give them to people because it’s been so long, but that’s not really the process right now.
We’ve written a ton, but four [songs are] produced and are ready to go and we really believe in them. That’s the stronghold of the new Aly & AJ. Then, we’re going to continue to write and we hope to release a full record at the beginning of this year, beginning of next. We want to tour next year. We need to have enough material.
Aly: We want to be opening for someone.
HG: Or, you could be the main event.
AJ: Or that, we’re not sure.
Aly: You know what’s funny is, we always talk about this, but we always were the headliner. We did some where we would switch with someone and we would flip-flop nights. But in general, we always headlined and there’s something fun — obviously, there’s something really nerve-racking about having to prove yourself to an audience, but I think it’s a really good thing for an artist to…
AJ: …get started.
Aly: Yeah, to be like, “Okay, half this room doesn’t give a shit who I am.”
AJ: And it’s not filled up.
Aly: I think it’s a really good thing on a mental level to put you in a place of you’re going to humble yourselves. It’s also laying the groundwork.
AJ: It proves to yourself how much are you really in it.
Aly: How much do you love it?
AJ: Are you in it because every seat is filled, or are you in it because you’re really having fun?
Aly: I think it would be good for us to do it. Obviously, headlining your own stuff is awesome, right? It would be fun to get a new audience that doesn’t know who we are, doesn’t have any interest necessarily in who we are.
AJ: And start gaining fans from another act. Maybe it’s because we’re older now and I look at it differently, but there’s something about — I think it’s so much cooler to say, “I’m opening up for Sia” or whoever as opposed to “I’m headlining.” I’d almost rather open up to someone I really look up to.
Aly: I think also there’s some bands that me and AJ have just enjoyed, that we go to a concert and we end up seeing someone else play and we really dig it. And we’re like, oh cool. Now we’re fans of that music.
AJ: Yeah, it’s a discovery. We want to be that.
Aly: Just to get back in the rehearsing space with our band and start working on these songs live. How do they sound live? How do they get interpreted from the record to a live performance? Which definitely takes some time and some tweaking. I think that the music will actually end up transitioning really well.
I think that it depends on the type of records you make. Some of them really flow well to a live setting and I think some are harder to recreate. We definitely are the type that are super focused and meticulous about the live performance aspect. I think we’re going to be more like that than we ever have been because we were teenagers. We definitely took it seriously and we were super into it.
AJ: Yeah, just more loose ends.
Aly: Because you’re younger. You’re just not aware of every single aspect of the business at that point too. You’re a little bit shielded from it. Now at this point, all the walls are down. We know every single element. I think that will only help better our shows.
HG: What makes you want to work together as sisters, and do you think that relationship strengthens your music? Or, how does it contribute to it?
AJ: I think it does. Not to say that there aren’t really strong acts that aren’t related. There’s so many that aren’t related that have blended in such a beautiful way, but there’s something so cool about — it’s only us two in our family. It’s not like there’s another sibling floating around, which would make me really sad. I wouldn’t want to be siblings with someone who wasn’t on the same…
Aly: Yeah, totally. Although, maybe…
AJ: Although maybe it’s someone [who] worked for NASA.
Aly: I was going to say [someone who is a] badass or is like, we’re losers.
AJ: There is something about working with your sister just in regards to how we write together, how we sing together, how we blend vocals. We’re so proud of how [far] our vocals have come. They’ve really come along since 2002, you know what I mean?
We’re just different vocalists now together. [It’s] something really powerful. For me, I wouldn’t ever want to be a solo artist. I’m really happy working with Alyson. There’s something about that love that comes together onstage that’s really different.
It’s what…Hanson had, you know what I mean? There’s examples that are better than Hanson. Although, I love them. I’m going a little old school, but there is something about siblings that you can’t beat. It’s really cool. There’s a synergy.
Aly: To me, as much as we do have our differences and we’ll fight about little, small things, we are pretty much on the same page when it comes to our creative aspirations. I think that’s what makes it really easy. I, if anything, am like either you be a solo artist or you be an artist that works with siblings. Because, I don’t know how the hell people can keep a band together that aren’t related.
It really seems like an absolute miracle that some of these bands have been together for 20, 25 years and I’m just like, how have you guys not all killed each other or just broken each other’s spirit in some horrible way? I’m sure they have, and that’s why they probably have become like siblings. I just know that I couldn’t talk to someone in the way that I can talk to AJ, if they were someone unrelated to me. It would just be a totally different scenario.
AJ: Then, you’re always censoring yourself. You don’t really get anything done. I feel like I would censor myself too much with someone that wasn’t family. And then, I would end up suffering from it later because I’d be bummed I didn’t say something. It’s because I would have had to censor myself so I don’t hurt the band. Whereas, Aly and I can.
Aly: Even if it’s maybe a little too harsh, at the end of the day, we are sisters and we’re going to be there for each other through everything. I feel like you can always get through a heartbreak between family, but a friend, that can divide forever. I think just being able to lift each other up through our music and even performing onstage is really important for AJ and I because we’ve never been interested in being solo artists.
We just never have. Not for one second have I ever been like, “I would love to be a solo artist.” It seems really lonely to me and it seems really scary to just have one spotlight. At least I can share it and shift it over to her, if I need to have a second to myself. And then, she can bump it back over to me and vice versa. Whereas, it can be a lot of pressure just being one sole entity.
HG: “Potential Breakup Song” recently turned 10.
Aly: Isn’t that crazy?
AJ: It’s crazy.
HG: How do you feel looking back on the song, and did you ever use it after the fact to help yourselves through a breakup?
AJ: I have listened to it in my car. It sounds really silly, but I’ve gone back later in life, whether it was a year ago or two years ago and, “Oh, I want to listen again.” And I’ll listen to “Potential” or I’ll listen to “Closure” or “Division” — some favorites of mine, just secretly on my own. Not because I’m going through anything personally, just because I’m having a nostalgic moment.
It’s fun to revisit and I’m really proud of that song. I’m proud of that record. That record just turned 10. Our first record’s about to turn 12. It’s crazy. I’m really proud. Some of it, I don’t ever want to hear again. But the majority of it, I still really love. It represents who we were as kids, and I love who we were as kids. We were really good kids and we were doing really cool things at a really young age. I’m really proud of us. “Potential” will always be on my mind.
Aly: I think also what was cool then, it might not necessarily be cool now. As Millennials in general, you’re always going to be hard on yourself for what you wore 10 years ago. But 10 years ago, it was really cool to wear cut-off socks on your arms. No one’s walking around wearing cut-off socks. It’s just funny that we can be so hard on ourselves. I think as women, especially, because of body issues and growing up and puberty and whatever it may be, we’re especially hard on ourselves.
So, I think that we’ve had our moments where we’ve been hard on our past songs, but then also look at it and I’m like, you know what? There’s nothing to be ashamed of. That’s pretty cool that we were 13 and 15 making this type of music and people were there supporting us at shows and we got to tour almost every single state in the U.S.
I can tell my kids about that. I definitely think that we pushed ourselves to progress, lyrically to progress — musically, just in our own taste as musicians. I think looking back on these songs, there’s definitely a nostalgia to it that’s very bittersweet.