It’s been almost two weeks since Panacea‘s sophomore set, The Scenic Route, was released. Producer Kyle Murdock just found out the first week sales were higher than that of their 2006 Rawkus/Glow In The Dark debut, Ink Is My Drink. But there is little time to celebrate.
The Washington, D.C. duo’s blue collar work ethic rarely allows them to sit back and enjoy their moderate success. Murdock is busy trying to secure managing and booking for the group, in order to get the “exposure we deserve.”
“When we originally signed, I knew Panacea could have the same impact as A Tribe Called Quest,” Murdock said. “We feel we can have a big impact, but we need the right tools.”
Those are big words from a young group with little exposure. But don’t take it as cockiness or ego. Murdock describes himself as “a regular dude,” but even that is an understatement. Both he, and rapper Jason Moore (Raw Poetic), are humble, gracious, and friendly.
The initial dichotomy of Murdock and Moore’s personalities is a bit jarring. Murdock is the silent hero of Panacea’s studio material, quietly sitting behind the boards and creating lush, dreamlike soundscapes that envelop the listener in a fantasy world. Meanwhile Moore, who was a creative writing major at George Mason University, paints lush images of life, both real and surreal, with his expressive songwriting and dominating, husky, C.L. Smooth-like voice.
But their established studio personalities often clash with their real-world selves. Murdock, a DJ for XM Satellite Radio with years of experience in AM and FM, has the giddiness of a child on Christmas morning. The quiet one in the studio, Murdock spoke passionately for more than an hour about his distaste for MTV’s current reality show dominance, bullshit politics at FM radio, his appreciation for Common’s much-abhorred “Electric Circus,” and being a fan of Justin Timberlake.
Moore, on the other hand, is quiet, calm, and calculated. He answered questions succinctly after some thought, but always managed to sneak in enough witty humor to come off as charming and friendly. It’s a far cry from his animated personality in the studio.
Speaking of studios, The Scenic Route may be new to the world’s ears, but Panacea is busy working on both its third and fourth albums. The group is also looking for a home for these two records, seeing as it fulfilled its contractual obligations with Rawkus and Glow In The Dark.
Panacea’s third release is referred to as “the ’08 album” to the press normally, but the group was feeling generous on this particular day, and granted a few exclusive tidbits.
“Our next record is called ‘A Mind On A Ship Through Time,’” Murdock said. “It’s very synthy – not like [Kanye West's] ‘Graduation’ – but we started making it in 2005. If people are still skeptical, this album will really make people say ‘these dudes are not only very real, but very progressive.’”
Murdock says the next album is a personal album made during a transient time. The group was in the process of moving to California, and the result was a heartfelt, electro-sounding album that touches on very personal material.
Moore was proud of a song called “LAVA,” a play on words describing their movement to Los Angeles from Virginia. But both Moore and Murdock couldn’t stop raving about “Orange Penicillin.”
“[The song] is about my favorite uncle, who passed away from AIDS,” Murdock said. “I can’t help but tear up when I hear it — that’s the song I’m most proud of. I can take it to my mom and she’ll smile.”
Furthermore, Panacea is working on “the ’09 album.” Moore let the title slip, but Murdock prefers the album’s name remain under wraps for now.
“It’s a concept record, like The Scenic Route, with 12 songs,” Moore said of the 2009 release. “It’s my version of a road trip, about the times we went through in California. The whole record is about the way we felt when we got home and all the silly obstacles that come with it.”
For the time being though, Panacea must focus on the present. Their current single, “Pops Said,” recently had a video shot by director Hilton Carter, and the group is focusing on getting it played on channels like mtvU and VH1 Soul, both of which helped launch Panacea’s career by placing the “Starlite” video in heavy rotation in 2006.
Panacea is currently planning on touring the East Coast, and has had preliminary talks with Nicolay about performing together. With Moore tackling microphone duties and Murdock triggering samples on his MPC, the duo is joined onstage by the band RPM, a group Panacea is part of and has worked with both onstage and in the studio for years.
“The live show is an extension of the RPM live show,” Moore said. “A live show for me is all energy – I get more into a Jimi Hendrix type vibe with it.”
Even Murdock, a stickler for his production sound, offers nothing but praise for his band’s abilities to faithfully recreate his dreamy musical backdrops.
“I’m very satisfied with the live sound,” he said. “In the live setting, I take a backseat – my guitarist [Patrick Fritz] and keyboard player [Aaron Gause] are the musical directors.”
Although widespread mainstream success has eluded Panacea thus far, both Murdock and Moore expressed their sheer happiness with how well both albums had done, both critically, and amongst hip-hop fans.
“It’s a patience thing, it’ll come in due time,” Murdock said. “My dream is to rock the (Nightclub) 9:30 (in Washington, D.C.), or even open for The Roots.”
“That’s when I know, this shit was all worthwhile,” he added. “I have a feeling that day will come very soon.”
- Adrian Ruhi