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Aly and AJ interview: ‘The queer community is really, really important to us’

Exclusive: Aly & AJ return to London days after headlining their first Pride in the US

By Charlotte Manning

Aly and AJ
Aly and AJ have been thrilling fans since their Disney days (Image: Stephen Ringer)

Sisters Aly and AJ Michalka have been on the music scene for nearly two decades, but they’re absolutely not going anywhere. 

The pair, who became famous across the world in their Disney days, released latest album With Love From back in spring. They already have plans for more music in the form of a Christmas EP. 

After playing an incredible sold-out show at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire last autumn, they returned to the UK last weekend to take part in British Summer Time in Hyde Park.

It came just days after headlining their first Pride in Oklahoma, which AJ says was “really special” to perform at. 

“We have a lot of friends that are in the LGBTQ+ community and it’s beautiful to be looked at as allies”

Attitude catches up with AJ (unfortunately, without Aly) for a good old chat about nostalgia, their unwavering LGBTQ+ allyship and the excitement of playing their first-ever European festival. 

“The crowd was amazing, we have some incredible international fans,” AJ begins, while reflecting on BST. “We haven’t spent a tonne of time promoting our music overseas but London has always been really, really good to us. 

Aly and AJ performing on stage
They have more dates in the US planned in September (Image: Stephen Ringer)

“I could feel the impact of the crowd as soon as we started playing,” she remembers. “A lot of people came from the Sugababes set, and to see everyone migrate felt really good. It enforced the music in a really interesting way to kind of just like kick ass! It was a really fun show, I thought the turnout was amazing.”

She adds: “It was a really neat, first European festival for us. I hope there’s many more ahead. It was really a positive experience.”

Having spent years living in a “very liberal community and a lot of creatives” in LA, the pair grew up alongside a lot of people who identified as LGBTQ+.

On their fierce allyship, AJ explains: “It’s never really been something that feels out of the ordinary for us. We’re just allies. Messengers who help stand up for the community that we believe in, and that we love. 

“We have a lot of friends that are in the LGBTQ+ community and it’s beautiful to be looked at as allies, because it’s an honour for Aly and I and it’s something that comes really easily. It’s just something that’s always been naturally in our wheelhouse.”

Aly and AJ
The sisters have plenty more fun projects planned (Image: Stephen Ringer)

They are currently collaborating with The Trevor Project – the leading organisation for crisis intervention and suicide prevention of LGBTQIA+ youth. She describes this as “the most poignant work” they’ve ever done. 

“It’s really important for Aly and I,” she continues. “We’ve raised a lot of money for them over the years. The queer community is really, really important to us.”

She goes on to reflect how certain songs resonated with the queer community in particular. “A song like ‘Rush’ really kind of started [our connection with LGBTQ+ fans]. I don’t even think Aly and I really knew at the time what we were doing. 

“That song has become a way for people to really kind of release this tension behind being closeted. Now that they’re able to come out, they feel like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can be exactly who I am, and this song speaks to me’.”

It all starts with the songwriting, she feels. “Queer fans that really connected with our lyrics and our inclusivity that I think is really important. Not every band necessarily brings that to the stage. It all starts with the music, and people know it’s a safe space and a loving space.”

As well as LGBTQ+ rights, they’ve also been vocal about issues such as Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood and the importance of using your right to vote.  

AJ describes this activism as “really important” to them: “We’re creative messengers. We’re people that are able to put an imprint of our music around the world. We can hopefully be on a platform and stage, physically and figuratively, that brings awareness towards causes we really believe in. 

“We made a pact years ago that when we were touring or putting out records, we would always have something to say beyond music. Whether that’s standing up for Planned Parenthood, or To Write Love on Her Arms, or Headcount, or Trevor Project. It’s been really important to us that we always have a partner, especially when we’re on stage. 

“We take time in our show, to really put a spotlight on something that we really believe in. It helps with awareness and be a lot of times and helps with fundraising

“Our style has changed and we’ve grown up. Our fans have been incredibly supportive of that”

The pair were first launched into the spotlight to millennial fans as teens in the mid-2000s with breakout single ‘Potential Break-up Song’.

Still an undeniable banger, AJ recognises the nostalgic ties many fans have with the pair, which she thinks has been heightened by Covid. 

Covid made a huge imprint on people’s ability to tap into the past,” she tells us. “All of us we’re living in this kind of fear-based world day to day, for so long. 

“We’re still in it, but everything feels a little bit safer. During that time of the unknown, it was really a nice way to latch on to something that you felt familiar with.”

But there’s plenty of love from fans from their new music too: “The reception been amazing. It’s incredible. Over the years, our style has changed and we’ve grown up. Our fans have been incredibly supportive of that. 

“It’s obviously a no-brainer that as we grow up, it’s going to happen. The music does change and shift. You’re always curious, who’s going to hang on, and stay with it, and they all have. 

“It’s really amazing that we built this kind of army over the years of people who really care about us and love us and know our music.”

Aly and AJ
They’re about to travel together, before releasing a Christmas EP (Image: Stephen Ringer)

So what do they have planned next? Well, quite a lot actually, including the promise of new music before the year’s out. 

They’ll continue to tour With Love From in the States before closing out that round of shows in September. A Christmas EP comes next.

“We’ll have a really lovely three song Christmas EP that will come out,” AJ teases. “We haven’t released any holiday music in years. 

“Then we’re going to get in the studio and start writing and focus on the next album and do a little bit of travelling. We’re gonna go on a sister trip to Costa Rica together and maybe visit Italy after the September tour. 

“It’ll be a really beautiful year of closing up this chapter, but also letting With Love From live on next year too.”