Known for their unique arrangements of classic and modern hip-hop jams, Gin & Juice is back for a sixth installment that celebrates a love for the hip-hop sounds of the late ’90s and early 2000s. The upcoming event features a seven-piece band that includes two emcees, as well as local singer Melissa Elliot (Missy Jo).
Gin & Juice debuted in the spring of 2018 at the Mangy Moose, and they’ve been rocking the stage for frenzied crowds ever since.
In advance of their upcoming show at The Virginian on Saturday, March 18, Gin & Juice bassist Leif Routman, guitarist Dusty Nichols and emcee J. Writing joined us in the KHOL studios.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on March 16.
JACK CATLIN/KHOL: Where did this idea for a collaborative hip-hop cover band come from and what was the process like of putting the band together?
LEIF ROUTMAN: It came from like 10 years of running around with their respective bands playing music in the valley, and every time we’d have a few drinks and hang, we’d be like, ‘We should do a hip-hop show together, you know?’ And we just did that enough years in a row that a critical mass was achieved. And we were like, all right, let’s do a hip-hop show together.
DUSTY NICHOLS: It’s kind of one of these ideas that we had kicking around for a long time. And when Joe Rudd moved to town, I think that’s when things changed. Because he’s a great keyboard player, and he’s well versed in the style of music. And then he also knew J. So we were really able to put it together at that point and make it a reality.
KHOL: And J., you were in a band beforehand with Rudd in L.A., right?
J. WRITING: Yeah, Joe [Rudd] and I were in a band called The Vinyl Party, and we played all around West L.A. for about five years. And then when he moved here, we stayed in contact. I actually recorded my first album here in Jackson, my first album with him. So that’s kind of what brought me to the area. And then I linked up with these guys.
KHOL: So you started back in 2018 at the Mangy Moose and are now back with the sixth installment of the show. How have the performances evolved over the years and what, in your opinion, separates this one from the rest of them?
J. WRITING: When we started doing these I was on my way here on the flight, I was like, ‘I don’t know if anybody’s going to be here, and we might just come and do like an hour and a half.’ And then it was packed and I’m like, ‘Oh, man,’ and then you definitely get nerves, right? So over the years, it’s kind of snowballed from there in terms of turnout, in terms of the enthusiasm around the show. I get messages on Instagram, like ‘Hey, when’s the show happening? Because we only fly out for the Gin & Juice show now.’ That’s insane for me to hear. Especially at the beginning when I didn’t think anybody was going to be there.
ROUTMAN: It’s really special that it’s taken on a life of its own and there’s a kind of intangible energy around this thing that we were kind of just winging it at the beginning, and it’s grown and seems to make folks really happy and make us happy. And, you know, it’s a tremendous amount of work, both logistically and financially and musically to make it happen and pull it off in the style we want to, but to get energy back from the community and get support from our local community here and people from out of town coming through to see the shows has been just tremendous and totally unexpected and a blessing. So we’re super grateful. And so it motivates us to dig even deeper and to schedule even more rehearsals and tighten the screws and connect the dots and just make sure that we’re walking on stage to deliver the very best performance we can.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Gin & Juice.