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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

Fable and the World Flat

Plus: Welcome home, Carlton Thompson

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"We aren’t a dance band, but we all like to dance,” drummer Michael Stewart says of his band, Fable and the World Flat.“We like music that makes you feel good. “We don’t just want audiences standing around with their arms crossed,” Stewart continues. “It’s a lot more fun when people are moving. We want to bring audiences that same feeling they’d get every time they hear the Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back.’”

That’s an ambitious mission statement considering that Stewart’s band grounds its sound not in sunny indie-pop or uptempo electro-clash, but rather in the somber, jazzy indie-rock of turn-of-thecentury groups like Karate and Aloha, bands more likely to crush spirits than lift them. Fable and the World Flat sought to update this lofty sound, preserving its pensiveness while including a more soulful, beatier groove and traces of trip-hop. “Dancing isn’t just exclusive to supercatchy, poppy music,” Stewart explains.

“You can have darker stuff and still dance to it, so long as that beat is there.” Since they began gigging a little more than a year ago, when they formed from the ashes of the short-lived indie-rock group The Meteah Strike, Fable and the World Flat have worked their way from the bottom of local bills to the top of them.

This Saturday, Feb. 23, they headline a 9 p.m. show at Mad Planet, backed by John the Savage and Sleep Tight Co., the group formerly known as Spransy & Kolb. If all goes according to schedule, Fable and the World Flat should finish mixing their debut album this March for a May release. “We record our songs a lot different from how we play them live,” explains guitarist Matt Gorski. “Live, there’s a lot more of us jamming and vibing off of each other, but we put more electronics in our recordings, and we emphasize the drums.

“The album will definitely have an underlying groove throughout the whole thing,” Gorski adds. “We’re aiming for something that you can tap your foot to.”

Milwaukee Roots:Milwaukee R&B singer Carlton Thompson Jr. is clocking time on regional radio with his latest song, “Roots,” an 11th-hour inclusion on the soundtrack to Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. Given short notice and little more than the gist of the film’s plot—man goes from rags to riches; forgets where he came from—Thompson wrote the song in a day, finalizing the recording in about half a week. “I call it my Bobby McFerrin number,” Thompson says, since he recorded the track a cappella, harmonizing with himself, beat-boxing the bass line and clapping and pounding his chest for percussion.

Thompson says the silky smooth soul song, which has been played on Michigan and Illinois radio, isn’t entirely representative of his repertoire, which has edgier, hip-hop influences, but he hopes it will act as a springboard for his solo career. Although he used to gig at the old Velvet Room and continues to sing with the group Urban Sol, recently he’s worked mostly behind the scenes as a songwriter and producer.

“Kedar Massenburg, the former president of Motown Records who was in charge of the Roscoe Jenkins soundtrack, put me on the album despite me being unsigned and unknown,” Thompson says. “Now I’m working on releasing an album this summer, and I’m looking to do some shows around Milwaukee to reintroduce myself to the city.”