Sister acting/singing duo Aly & AJ — whose full names are Alyson and Amanda Joy Michalka — showed a passion for both kinds of performing at a very young age: they started playing piano at age six and began acting classes soon after. Born in L.A., the Michalkas moved to Seattle in the early '90s, where their parents exposed them to a wide variety of music and supported their excitement about both acting and making music. As the girls learned piano and guitar, they also landed acting and modeling gigs, which prepared them to pursue both careers more seriously once the family returned to Southern California.
AJ Michalka won roles and appearances on shows as diverse as Birds of Prey, Oliver Beene, General Hospital, and Six Feet Under; Alyson earned the part of Keely Teslow on the Disney Channel series Phil of the Future, which allowed her to show off her musical skills as well as acting chops, performing songs such as "Protecting Me." As Aly & AJ, the Michalka sisters recorded a cover of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Do You Believe in Magic," which appeared in the Disney Channel movie Now You See It and became a number one most-requested song on Radio Disney. Their follow-up single, "No One," appeared on the soundtrack to 2005's Ice Princess, and their Hollywood Records-issued debut album — which featured songs penned entirely by the Michalkas — dropped that same year. The holiday album Acoustic Hearts of Winter followed in 2006. In 2007 the sisters released their sophomore record, Insomniatic, accompanied by starring roles in the MTV movie version of the hit television show My Super Sweet 16. Insomniatic debuted at 15 on the Billboard Top 200 and its first single, "Potential Breakup Song," peaked at 17 on its way to platinum certification from the RIAA.
Aly & AJ began work on a third album in 2008 with their eyes on a 2009 release, but the duo hit a series of snags with Hollywood Records. In July 2009, the pair switched their name to 78violet and announced they planned to have an album out in 2010, but that record never materialized. By February 2010, the duo left Hollywood Records. During the mid- 2010s, the pair continued to work as 78violet, signing with Red Light Management in May 2013. Despite a flurry of recording and several shows, no recordings were released and the sisters reverted to the name Aly & AJ in December 2015. Nearly a decade after Insomniatic, Aly & AJ finally released new music in 2017: the single "Take Me," whose parent EP, Ten Years, appeared in November of that year. A pair of early-2019 singles, "Church" and "Don't Go Changing," were later included on the duo's second EP, Sanctuary, which arrived later that May. ~ Heather Phares