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Sister Duo Aly And AJ Return To Music With New Album

ALY MICHALKA: So I'm Aly, the older sister.

AJ MICHALKA: I'm AJ. And together, we're Aly & AJ.


The sister duo Aly and AJ Michalka shared the stage in their early teens on the Disney Channel. Aly starred in the series "Phil Of The Future," and AJ joined her in the original movie "Cow Belles." And like fellow Disney vets Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, Aly and AJ are talented musicians.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) You're like a tattoo that I can't remove, and it feels good. It feels good. It feels good.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) Don't let nobody tell you your life is over. Be every color that you are.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) This is the potential breakup song. Our album needs just one.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a bit of "Like Whoa," "Rush" and "Potential Breakup Song," teenage takes on relationships and self-esteem from more than a dozen years ago. Aly and AJ are now in their early 30s, and they've returned with what just may be the soundtrack of the summer - a new album with a title long enough to make up for such a long absence.

AJ MICHALKA: It was 2020. It was probably June or July. And we were like, what are we going to call this record? And Aly was like, I think we should call it "A Touch Of The Beat Gets You Up On Your Feet Gets You Out And Then Into The Sun." And I was like, that's hot.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) A touch of the beat gets you up on your feet, gets you out and then into the sun.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Even though this is their fourth studio album, the sisters say this one feels like a new beginning. Here's AJ.

AJ MICHALKA: I would describe it as, like, our coming-of-age debut, 100%. It feels like the first time in this weird way. I mean, we've been doing this now for 20 years, and I really feel that Aly and I are just kind of rooted in a style that we knew was in us but just didn't know how to access.

ALY MICHALKA: Yeah, I agree. I would say the biggest difference between the records that we're now making versus the ones we made in the past would be the fact that we're completely in the driver's seat. That was a struggle for us as young females starting out in the industry, having to answer to an older male figure that didn't really know our fan base but kept telling us that they did. And so now, you know, we're able to make this music freely. And I think that by setting all of those things aside, we had our most enjoyable time creating it.


AJ MICHALKA: I think the song we're the most proud of in terms of the writing, the recording process, how it all came together is "Pretty Places."


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) We could pack up this house, get out of town, drive across country, one taillight out.

AJ MICHALKA: It's one of the oldest tracks on the record. We wrote it about five years ago, and it happened to be kind of a leading star track of this record. And I really think it's a song that kind of established exactly the sound that we want to move forward with. And that's the beauty of this song, is that it kind of led the pack.

ALY MICHALKA: "Pretty Places" is kind of our ode to the open road. And we wrote this song in a day, and we all just kind of sat back and were like, wow, this chorus is really special.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) All the pretty places pull us away from where the pain is.

ALY MICHALKA: At the end of the day, you know, we got some really powerful lyrics into the chorus that weren't originally there, and I think that one of my favorites is all the pretty places pull us away from where the pain is, which I think is so true. You know, when we travel, when we get out of town, when we go down the street, even, sometimes, your worries can just kind of float away. And I think there's something to be said about that. And it feels like a classic song. It feels like a song that you can play, you know, 20 years from now and you'll still appreciate.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) Singing to the radio, don't worry, baby. With the windows down, I can feel it in the air tonight.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And listening back to their older, still catchy songs, Aly and AJ agree that they've come a long way since playing Taylor and Courtney in their Disney movie "Cow Belles."

AJ MICHALKA: I'm proud of us. Like, I look back at some of that songwriting, and I'm like, wow, we were, you know, writing some really great pop songs at a very young age. That kind of songwriting brought us to where we are now. And I think the writing we're doing now is, you know, 10 times better, thank God. It's been 14 years. I sure hope it is. But overall, I kind of just look at the new music, and I just say, all right, let's move forward. Like, that's great. That's part of our past, and...


AJ MICHALKA: ...Now I want this music to kind of get that same attention. And hopefully, in 20 years from now, we'll be having an interview talking about, you know, the fame "Pretty Places" had and how it affected people.

ALY MICHALKA: Right. Right.

AJ MICHALKA: So I'm looking forward to that - the next chapter.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) It's an impossibly day. Might be the time for a change.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Aly and AJ Michalka. Their new album is "A Touch Of The Beat Gets You Up On Your Feet Gets You Out And Then Into The Sun," and it's out now.


ALY AND AJ: (Singing) Might be the time for a change. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.