Israeli-born, L.A.-based rocker Sima released the single “Runaways” in June, the title track from her forthcoming second full-length album. She’s following that up with a second single, a cover of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield,” in August. We chatted about all that and more…
L.A. WEEKLY: You’re originally from Israel — when did you move to the States?
SIMA: I came from Israel to New York, and I was there for nine years. Grew up so influenced by the American culture of film, music and fashion. When you live outside of America, everything comes to us. We were so influenced by MTV culture, and the artists that came from here. As a kid, I always wanted to be here. I had a friend that lived in New York, and she asked me to visit.
I grew up in a small, rough town in Israel. So it felt like all the doors were closing and I wanted to start something new. I was over-protected growing up, and I just felt like I wanted freedom. I came to visit her, and getting out of the subway in Times Square — that was it for me. I wanted to explore and I saw opportunity. I was supposed to stay for two weeks, but after two weeks there was no way that I was going to go back. I called my parents and told them I was going to stay longer, and my mom cried for like a year straight. I was 19 years old. I didn’t know anybody except this girl who ended up going back to Israel after a month. I had $1,000 in my pocket and no proper clothes — I didn’t know how cold New York could get. I had to call my best girlfriend and ask her to send me a coat from Israel. I had nothing. But you take a journey and one thing leads to another. Twenty-ish years later, it’s home. The biggest thing for me was having the freedom to choose for myself. I can make mistakes and it’s OK.
Were you singing and performing in Israel?
Yeah, since I was 10 years old I always sang in school and in competitions. My mom always pushed me to sing in bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs and family events. I always had this gift for singing and connecting through that. I had a friend in Israel who was a guitar player, so we started a band and played for our friends. I got into a singing group in Israel right before I left, which crashed as soon as it started. So that was always a big part of my life.
How would you describe your sound, and how has it evolved since you first record, This is my Truth?
On This is my Truth, I was discovering and exploring myself, and who I am as an artist. I don’t think I was secure with my own talent. I was discovering who I am. Now with Runaways, it was like, I’m done making myself small for others. I wanted to give myself the dreams and I felt like throughout my journey I kept listening to other people’s judgements, like my parents. I always had it in the back of my head, ‘Maybe they’re right.’ In Runaways, I just said “Fuck it” and went for it. It’s very driven and in your face. This is who I am. This is what I’m supposed to do.
Is there a theme to Runaways?
It’s a journey. I didn’t know I was going to call the record Runaways, but after releasing the song and thinking about the second single, it made sense because I saw myself as that runaway. Every song has a rebellious side, and every song explores a different aspect of who I am as an artist and as a woman. So it felt like I am the runaway. I wanted something bigger out of life. The whole record is empowering and there’s a sense of transformation through it.
Why cover Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield?”
I always loved that song, and people always told me I should cover it. People always compared me to her in some way — she’s little but bad-ass and fierce. I always loved her and her music. I wanted to give my Sima vibe to it. Keep the ‘80s sound but still create something transformed and different. Bring my own flavor to it.
Obviously the lockdown means we can’t plan too much, but do you have any tentative plans for 2020?
On Thursday, I’m recording an acoustic version of “Runaways.” I’m curious to see how that sounds when it’s completely stripped down. Then I’ll release the second single, and then the record hopefully by October. I’ve been working on a documentary for the last five years called “Broken Wings” — a journey that I took five years ago. I’m hoping to finish it by the beginning of next year. It’s about bridging gaps through music. We started the final editing right before COVID happened. So that’s what I’m focussing on. Spreading positivity — I feel like people need it right now. Even if I make a goofball out of myself, it’s just about making people laugh.
The “Runaways” single is out now.