MILCK is creating the soundtrack to a major socio-political movement.
Since going viral in 2017 for singing her empowering single "Quiet" at the inaugural Women's March in Washington, D.C., the 36-year-old musician and activist has performed alongside the likes of Amanda Gorman and Yoko Ono and continuously stood up for human rights by marching in protests, launching a charity called Somebody's Beloved and creating more impactful anthems for listeners.
Last month, MILCK released her powerful single, "We Won't Go Back" featuring Autumn Rowe, BIIANCO and Ani DiFranco, created in response to SCOTUS' controversial overturning of Roe v. Wade using a chant from a pro-choice protest. Today, PEOPLE can exclusively premiere the track's music video, directed by Jen Rosenstein (Jon Batiste, John Legend), which features depictions of women throughout history and stark imagery of a world without legal abortions.
The musician, whose real name is Connie Lim, hopes "We Won't Go Back" allows listeners to feel less alone in the current state of the nation. "I think what's happening right now is that there's so many crises happening all at once, and this is a big one," MILCK tells PEOPLE. "I just want people to feel energized because the fatigue is real right now."
Ahead of the video's release, PEOPLE caught up with MILCK to discuss its inspiration, how she linked up with the featured artists and what fans can expect from her upcoming debut album.
Nazrin Massaro MILCK
"We Won't Go Back" features a recording from a protest you attended in Washington, D.C., the day after Politico leaked that SCOTUS was going to overturn Roe v. Wade. Given that you've been creating music around social and political issues for so long, when did you realize you wanted to create this song?
I didn't have any intention of creating any music when I went. I was just like, "I should show up, be a warm body out there and show support." There are some protest chants that I'm like, "Okay, cool, I'll shout with them," and sometimes I don't resonate, and I won't. But with this one, "We won't go back," it was just so clear and simple. I felt really connected with all the other protesters. Then, I went to my hotel room after the protest. I was watching the videos and reflecting on the day. I saw that video, and then all of a sudden I was like, "That should be a song."
Then, I saw how upset my fans and friends were, and I realized we feel powerless right now. So I was like, "Hey, do you all want to write lyrics to this song?" People started submitting, and so we were no longer in a place of, "I'm powerless. I hate this," but we were like, "This we disagree with, and this is what we feel." It just took a life of its own. This song has saved me from feeling numb, which I think is the most dangerous. It's okay if people feel numb, [but] feeling numb for too long is dangerous for the health of our society.
How did Autumn Rowe, BIIANCO and Ani DiFranco get involved with the song?
I had opened for Ani DiFranco when "Quiet" went viral. We went on tour together, and I looked up to her. I still look up to her a lot, and I think she's just a badass. I was nervous to ask her to be a part of it, but I was like, "This is the time to approach people for the things you want. This is the time to really give yourself what you desire." So, I asked her, and she immediately jumped on, and that was so cool. She added these gritty guitars [and sang] in this really gritty way.
BIIANO had DM'd me years ago to collaborate, and we kept missing each other. Finally, they were posting some really cool videos on TikTok and Instagram, so I messaged them and asked, "Do you want to be a part of this?" BIIANCO was an essential element because they produced. So I was able to co-produce a track with BIIANCO, and we built it to something bigger.
I felt something wasn't complete yet, and I met Autumn Rowe. She's at this really beautiful point in her career where she just won a Grammy with Jon Batiste, and she's been writing for a long time, and she's so amazing. I had a writing session with her, and then I was like, "Would you want to sing on this?" Like two days later, she sent me vocal files and added a whole section. Once Autumn did that, the song was complete.
Courtesy MILCK MILCK
The "We Won't Go Back" music video features powerful women figures like Mona Lisa and Aphrodite — as well as an unraveled wire hanger to represent the disturbing reality of a nation without safe and legal abortion. What inspired the video?
When the song was done, people were pitching to me ideas, like, "Okay, we can just compile a bunch of protest footage together." We've been seeing lots of images of protests for the past half-decade, and I feel like our eyes are just going to glaze over it. It's not compelling. I want to follow what [artist Toni Cade Bambara] said, "The role of the artist is to make revolution irresistible." So I was like, "Let me try to challenge myself so that visually there's some eye candy, and you don't want to really look away."
I also wanted it to be kind of playfully rebellious. The song matter is serious, so inserting some childlike humor felt really good to me. I wanted everyone to have fun on set. We were giggling, and we were just being ridiculous and allowing those crazy ideas to become reality. I was like, "What if I had an abortion pill on my tongue, and I cut my face into the statue's face?" I wanted to use old, classic images of what women have been portrayed as and impose them on the modern day woman.
As we were filming the video, I realized we're also singing for those women, because I'm sure Mona Lisa and these different people had things they were going through during that time. All those women worked so hard to get us to this place. I don't want to go back. I want to move forward. It just became a really full concept, and I really just followed it by daring to dream bigger than a compilation of protest footage.
The wire hanger is shown at the end alongside a message that reads, "May the hanger remain a symbol of the past. Let us not go back," and a link to safe abortion resources. What led you to include such striking imagery and messaging?
I was really concerned. I was reading some articles about how the hanger is a controversial symbol, and there's some people who don't want to use that symbol anymore. They [say] it's really dangerous because one, it could trigger people who have gone through it, and two, they don't want people to think that's the thing that they have to resort to now, because there's a lot of other ways to access abortion when it's not legal. That's why at the end we put [the message and information].
I resisted it, and my director was like, "We should use the hanger." I was like, "I don't know what to do. It's really intense." I understood that because I felt that way, we probably should use it. Then, it really confirmed for me, because I played the video for a woman who just turned 70. She was like, "I literally have friends who have done that. I need you to keep it in there because I want the young people of this generation to know what we had to go through and what we are trying to protect people from."
You're currently working on an album. What can you tease about its subject matter and when your fans can expect to hear it?
I hope when people put on the album that it's a head space for them to be in, and takes people on a journey of angst, sensuality, helping people access and stay in their bodies and to not feel alone in this absurd world we're living in. It's not an escapist album, it's a 's— is going on, and we're going to find our way' type of album. It's called The Animal and the Machine.
There's a song called "The Animal," which will be the next song I release, and there's another song called "The Machine," which will also be a focus single. It's my very first album as MILCK, and I feel like it's my first thing that regardless of what is going on with current events, it's a piece I want to offer, a big picture piece. It's not reactive, it's responsive — if that makes sense.