Aly & AJ Are Back
Though it’s been 10 years since they dropped classic tracks like “Potential Breakup Song” and “Rush”, we certainly haven’t forgotten about Aly & AJ. The singer/songwriters are back on the road with fresh hits we can’t resist. While their reemergence has certainly hit that nostalgic sweet spot, the synth-loving sisters have found that fans are equally as excited to hear their latest bangers.
Milk caught up with the pop duo to chat about how they’re using their time on the road to activate voters, spread inclusivity, and show fans a good time. Check out the full interview below.
You’re back on tour! How is it going so far?
AJ: It’s going really well. We only have four more shows left. Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Chicago. It’s only a 20 day tour so it’s actually way too short. Knowing that we only have four left makes me sad. It’s been so fun to be back on the road after 10 years. It just reinstates that we were born to do this, more so now than ever. Doing it as a kid was awesome, an incredible experience, but doing it as an adult? The appreciation is at such a different level. Knowing just how lucky we are to be in a bus and have a band and a crew, to know that we are a traveling circus is kind of bizarre, but every night has been really rewarding.
Have you had any especially fun shows? Any memorable cities?
Aly: Toronto was our favorite show. We never played before in Canada ever, and I work part-time work on a TV show in Vancouver, it feels a little like home to me. We played Vancouver shortly after Toronto, but there was something about the energy of the crowd that night. It was so smooth. Toronto, New York and Phoenix were all great shows for us.
AJ: Phoenix was dope. I was nervous for the first three, since things are bound to go wrong. Something is usually askew the first few shows. But the first three, San Francisco, Anaheim, and Phoenix, couldn’t have gone better. It really set the pace for the whole tour.
Does touring feel different this time around? Since it’s been so long?
Aly: We’re not with our mom, so that’s a huge change! We don’t have a security guard with us. I think we might need it eventually, but it hasn’t been out of hand so far. The venues have been really great helping us get to and from.
AJ: The audience is much different, they’ve definitely grown up!
Aly: I now look in the audience specifically for kids, and there’s like zero. There was one show where I saw two girls under the age of 13, and it was because their sisters used to like our music so they started listening.
AJ: Also, when we were younger we didn’t have the separation between our old and new music – it was all new. Now, we’re playing really old songs and new songs and we get to see the reaction between the two. The blend of excitement has been seamless. It’s really neat to see people just as excited about the old stuff as they are the new EP.
I actually caught your NYC show, I had such a blast. The crowd was definitely excited to hear the throwbacks, but felt equally as excited about the new stuff.
Aly: I wasn’t completely shocked by it, but I was surprised that some songs went off better than I expected because they don’t have the views on YouTube that “Potential Breakup Song” has. But when we played, “Take Me”, the reaction was the same as when we played “Rush”, or any other song from the past. It feels good, these songs are really resonating with people, nostalgia factor aside.
It was great to learn that you were registering people to vote at the show, that was major. It seems like that’s something that’s really important to you.
Aly: We’re really passionate about it. For us, this past year we noticed how important it is. It’s always important, but even more so now than ever. Even if your political views are different than mine and AJ’s, that’s ok — as long as you’re going out there and educating yourself.
AJ: We want people to be active, without pushing our own agenda. It’s more a matter of, look, this is important. Please register. We don’t care what side you’re on, just please show up.
Aly: Everybody should be registered, it’s 2018, it’s so simple! They made things hard for certain people in certain areas. It should just be as simple as if you have an ID or license, you’re already registered. But things can’t always be so simple.
I think that’s a great way to use your platform. Speaking of good causes, “Good Love” was released last month to coincide with Pride. As songwriters, I’m wondering if when you’re writing, you deliberately use inclusive language. Is that something that comes naturally or is intentional? Looking at your lyrics as a whole, they generally are not gendered, it’s more about the human experience.
AJ: Honestly, it’s just our way of thinking. I think that’s why we have so many fans, because you can sense that genuine material. When we were writing, “Rush” we just felt like it was something we needed to say, and it resonated with a lot of people. It’s very much how we write, which is very cool.
Aly: We didn’t think those songs would become gay anthems.
Aly: I think it’s a symptom of a broader generational shift. We’re part of a generation where we naturally think to include, and be kind. Past generations, that was not really the vibe. It was really static.
As straight, cis-women with a large LGBT following, can you talk a bit about how you take steps to check your privilege?
Aly: AJ and I grew up in a small, white community living in either Calabasas or Thousand Oaks. It was not a diverse neighborhood. As we’ve grown up and formed friendships with different people, whether it’s different races, sexual orientations, we’ve realized that we were very much in a bubble as we saw the world as teenagers. We grew up, thankfully, with parents who were very inclusive. We know we were blessed with having a father who worked really hard to support us. Some kids don’t have that and are working at age 15 to support their family, working two different shifts on a job. It’s given AJ and I a deeper understanding and empathy for people who come from different walks of life.
AJ: As white female musicians in this industry, we don’t have a lot to complain about. But we’ve met so many people that our empathy has grown inside us in a deeper way. For us, it was such an inclusive childhood. Our best friend growing up was gay, and we knew as kids that anyone was welcome at our house. I play a non-binary role in a cartoon on Cartoon Network, and it’s the first non-binary character on their network. It’s a cartoon called Steven Universe, which people have really resonated with. The creator, Rebecca Sugar, is wonderful. She decided to show characters that are never represented, and people have come up to me and told me that they really identify with my character. As actors, we can implement our beliefs into our work.
I’m sure people generally ask how your song writing techniques have changed, but I’m curious about what you’ve found to be tried and true methods of songwriting. What has stayed with you since the beginning?
Aly: We’re not set in our ways as writers where we do the same thing every time. But it almost always comes from a musical melody, that leads into a vocal melody, that leads into a lyric. Almost always in that order. Whether it’s us working with producers that we co-write a lot of stuff with, or just the two of us, it’s always started with some line on guitar or piano that inspires some vocal melody.
AJ: Something that hasn’t changed, and I don’t think ever will, is the first question when we ask ourselves when we enter the studio: what are we writing today? We don’t go in with a ton of ideas, we let the ideas come when we’re there.
Aly: We’re not really notepad writers or diary writers. Every once in a while I’ll have a lyric idea and put it in my notes, but it’s very rare. It’s almost always done on the day we go into the studio.
What else do you guys have in the works at the moment?
AJ: We’re stoked about our new single, “Good Love”. It’s been really well received so far.
Aly: Our new ecomm store has come to life too. In the past, when we were 15 and 17, we had a huge merchandising company that did everything for us. We’d look over the designs once, not really taking the time to give notes and pay attention to the details. We look back on a lot of our old tour t-shirts and are mortified. Now we are much more in control creatively.
AJ: I guess in the moment it was cool! We still see kids come to our show, as adults now, wearing the old stuff. It’s really cute, I don’t regret any of it. But having this direct and hands-on approach is everything to us.
Stay tuned to Milk for more music favorites.