It took too long, it took too long, it took too long for Aly Michalka to return to our lives, but she’s finally back, and there’s no potential for a breakup anytime soon.
Perhaps most known for her roles on Disney’s "Phil of the Future," "Cow Belles" and the Emma Stone film "Easy A," in addition to her music – created in conjunction with her sister AJ and released under the apt name Aly & AJ – Michalka has spent the last 10 years recalibrating and refocusing.
Aly & AJ stopped releasing music after their third album, Insomniatic, was released in 2007 and spawned the top 20 hit “Potential Breakup Song.” They briefly released music under the name 78violet, but the duo took another hiatus before returning to their original name and fan base – albeit with a reinvented, more mature sound.
Now, Aly Michalka seems to have it figured out – with their latest EP, Ten Years, she and her sister have found a musical language that connects with their audience, and her once-recurring character on the CW series "iZombie" has had such positive reception that she has been bumped up to a series regular since season 3.
As "iZombie" gears up for its fifth and final season, Aly Michalka and several fellow cast members are slated to attend the 2019 Wizard World ComicCon in New Orleans, where they’ll meet and greet some of the loyal fans that have brought them such success. Also slated to appear is Aly’s sister AJ, so fans can bring along their copies of Into the Rush and have them signed by both members of the duo.
Still riding a high from my interview with fellow Disney star Will Friedle last year, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk with Aly about the changes she has undergone in the past ten years and her hopes for the future. Your suspicions are true – for someone who has been in the spotlight since her early teens, she is incredibly down to earth, and it’s the connection she’s made with her fans that keeps her pushing to challenge herself in every medium.
Aly stepped away in between shooting scenes of "iZombie" season five to answer the questions that I’ve been burning to ask, and I’m passing on excerpts of this ultimate Christmas present to you below.
Topher Balfer: Let's start with "iZombie." You originally started as a recurring character and now you're a regular. What was it about your character that you think resonated with the audience?
Aly Michalka: The fact that, as a cast, we all get along really well in real life is something that I think the fans connect to. I think that they see our genuine interaction as cast members on and off screen. The dialogue and the relationship that they wrote for the Peyton and the Ravi character, I think, was really instrumental in wanting to bring back Peyton… and I think the writers were pleasantly surprised by the fan reaction we got. It just made sense. Plus, there's only really one female on the show, which is Rose [McIver], and I think that it was nice to have some other type of female energy that was added to the mix with the other actors. And just bringing Peyton's “no bullshit” sense of humor was a nice addition to the show. I have a lot of fun working with Rose. We get along really great as girl friends in real life, so it was an easy gig to be able to come back to.
TB: Can you tease what's next for Peyton in season five?
Michalka: Peyton basically is given a pretty large load this season, with now being the acting mayor since Baracus has been killed. She's not expecting, obviously, to be there very long, but the decisions that she has to make are pretty serious. And she's continuously trying to fight against the system in terms of the equal rights of zombies and humans. And then on top of that, you've got her dealing with her relationship with Ravi. And they're going strong this season, which is really nice to see that there's a consistency there. But her job ends up being kind of put in jeopardy part of this season, and you'll see that towards the end. She really has to come to terms with the fact that maybe all of her hopes and dreams and aspirations for this legal system that she originally brought herself into aren't going to necessarily work out the way that she planned.
TB: In regards to your music, I know you gave us Ten Years the EP last year, and we just got the deluxe version with a couple of new tracks. When are we getting a full album?
Michalka: Well, we're kind of looking forward to doing new music in the new year. I don't know if we'll get a full album quite yet, but we're really looking forward to releasing another EP – a larger EP, not just four songs, and introduce the fans to another segment of new Aly & AJ music. That's kind of what's in the works, and then hopefully getting out on the road in like May, June… It's going to be funny not coming back to "iZombie" because I always am planning my year out, where August through January is booked on being out in Vancouver shooting. So now the door's kind of been opened to work on music even more, which I'm really looking forward to.
TB: Whenever you came back with Ten Years, your sound was totally revamped and featured an '80s influence. What inspired that?
Michalka: A lot of the music that we were listening to at the time, as well as just music that had influenced us over the years. I think we were able to tell a more focused and succinct version of our music than we were before because we were fully in the driver's seat this time, which felt really nice. In the past, we felt like we were kind of pulled in certain directions, whether it was by the label or the producers we were working with. And that sometimes would greatly influence and affect the music. This time around, it was just completely up to us, which is really exciting – but also kind of terrifying because you know that you're in charge of making every single decision. And the fans really responded positively and ended up embracing the music and the new sound. It’s not walking away completely from what Aly & AJ is as group – it’s about still having that nostalgia factor to the music, but also feeling like we've grown up, like we had taken time to really develop our music and improve ourselves.
TB: I think that totally comes through in the new music, with songs like “Good Love” and “Promises” that have those darker bridges. Is that sort of the same theme you're going to carry on to the next body of work?
Michalka: Yeah, we are. I think we've found our world that we want to stay in. I think that that will always be our baseline for new music to come. Kind of that '80s, kind of like a slightly sad-type production, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the lyrics or sad or that the music is sad. But that's, I think, where we're at in terms of the sound.
TB: And whenever you do release new music, can we please have a show in New Orleans?
Michalka: I would love to have a show in New Orleans. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, so I'm definitely looking forward to that.
TB: Whenever you first announced the Promises tour, I must have DM'ed your page, AJ's page and the Aly and AJ combined page saying, “Please come here!”
Michalka: That is so sweet. I know that we missed it on that one. We were bummed.
TB: One more question. I know it's the age of revivals, so can we ever expect a "Phil of the Future" reunion or a "Cow Belles Two?"
Michalka: That is not completely off the books. We've actually talked about doing that, and that's a possibility. Revamps are now kind of a new thing, and so I think that we would definitely be open to doing that.
TB: For Phil or for Cow Belles?
Michalka: Honestly, either. We've kind of technically talked about "Cow Belles Two," which is funny. That has been a discussion in the last few months, funny enough. I don't know about "Phil of the Future." I mean, I would totally do that as well. It would all depend on where it would air and how and all of those things. Why not? There's this newfound love and appreciation for old things of the past – kind of now more than ever, and I think that's great. I think that embracing that is actually really cool. Especially when it was a place that kind of brought you to where you are now.
TB: Well, I am looking forward to whatever you do. I will be following, and I will be on the lookout for you at the convention.
Michalka: Awesome. We'll all be there as a cast. It's like most of us are there, which is actually really cool. And very rare that we all get to do a convention like that together. Thanks for listening to the music, and I hope to see you hopefully in like May or June. I know that New Orleans will be on our list this time, so we will not miss you.
You heard it here first — we can officially expect to see Aly & AJ in New Orleans sometime next year, whether as an extension to the Promises Tour or, if we’re lucky, to bring in a new catalog of music. Until then, you can catch Aly, AJ and the "iZombie" cast at Wizard World ComicCon.
The convention runs Jan. 4 – 6, and while official guest schedules have not yet been released, keep an eye on Aly’s guest page for more information on when and where you can meet her.
Until then, you have plenty of time to take a holiday through history and binge her entire filmography and discography.