If you only knew Kimya Dawson from her twee, adorable contributions to the "Juno" soundtrack, you might have a hard time recognizing her now. On her new solo disc, "Thunder Thighs," the sometime frontwoman of the Moldy Peaches collaborates with rapper/producer Aesop Rock, who brings (vaguely) hip-hop beats to Dawson's otherwise Spartan indie folk.
Also making an appearance: Dawson's daughter Panda, who co-wrote "Mare and the Bear," one of several kid-friendly tracks on the otherwise very adult disc. So far, she says, Panda hasn’t demonstrated any interest in becoming a musician. "She's five," says Dawson, who plays the Black Cat on Friday. "Right now, she wants to be a dog walker."
Between [the Moldy Peaches] and working with Aesop Rock, is it fair to say you enjoy collaboration more than being a solo artist?
It's just different. Different songs come from different places in me and serve different purposes. Some songs come to me when it's just me by myself, and those are solo songs. Some things come as the result of two heads put together. The songs that [Aesop Rock] and I write together are songs I never would have come up with on my own.
Do you find that your fans are open to the hip-hop element in these new songs?
Oh yeah. I think what he and I do is really similar, and I think when people see us together they realize that.
How did you two first hook up?
We've known each other a little over a year now. He e-mailed me — he'd been listening to my music for a while, and he asked me to contribute to his blog. I asked him to contribute a beat in exchange. We've become really good friends ... I don't think what he does and what I do are that far removed. Production-wise, yeah, it's pretty different ... His stuff is so good, it was just like, yeah, he'll do it right.
Is your stage fright really as bad as it's been made out to be?
It used to be really bad but now it's not. It's okay ... Now it's just kind of like, some shows I'm nervous. It used to be where I was shaking. But it's not a big deal. It's not bad at all.
After "Juno" you probably had new fans who expected you to behave a certain way. [Has this] weeded them out?
Well, by the time those songs were in "Juno" I had already had four solo albums and the Moldy Peaches albums, and the songs that they picked for the movie were sweet songs.
Having music within the context of the movie, which is pretty slick, people had that expectation of the person making the music. I think more than anything, what my live shows are like, if people had that expectation and they came to see me live, that would have weeded out those who expected something more produced or more professional. And then I walk out [on stage] and I'm totally a mess and I'm messing up mid-song. I do my thing. Some people like it, some people don't.
Did "Juno" ultimately have that much of an effect on your daily life?
No. I just live in my house in the woods and take my kid to school and try to take care of me and try to take care of her. I live in [Olympia, Wa.] and everybody in this town is a musician, so it's just not a big deal.