Comprised of Big Owl (aka Fliptrix), Bird T (aka Verb T), Rusty Take-Off (aka BVA) and Deformed Wing (aka Leaf Dog), The Four Owls took flight in 2011 with the release of their debut album, ‘Nature’s Greatest Mystery’.
Taken under the nurturing wing of the High Focus Records label, The Four Owls have been hailed as ambassadors for UK hip hop. From behind their beaked and feathered masks spring forth uncompromising lyricism underpinned by Deformed Wing’s beat-making prowess.
Last year they released their sophomore album ‘Natural Order’, a follow-up record that solidifies their rise to the top of the hip hop pecking order.
This October, the wise and wordy quartet bring their ‘Nature’s Greatest Tour’ to Australia, accompanied by DJ Madnice, for what promises to be one of the year’s must-see hip hop gigs.
Ahead of the tour, MC Bird T (aka Verb T, aka Thomas Conning) answers our questions about their first trip down under, the new album and most importantly: what’s with the owl masks?
The members of The Four Owls are all artists in their own right. How did you all come together initially?
[MC Bird T] I met Fliptrix a long time ago before High Focus had started and thought he was a sick MC, and we started working together on songs and doing live shows. Funnily enough, I had crossed paths with Leaf Dog and BVA years before at a gig. I remember Leaf playing me his first beats, but only really got to know them properly once the whole High Focus movement had started.
And why choose the owl as the symbol of the group?
Sometimes you choose the name and sometimes the name chooses you. I think in this case it was the latter. Leaf Dog and BVA were listening to the song 'Spark Another Owl' by Cypress Hill, which is a reference to the blunt papers they used, and Leaf said we should make a group called The Owls. Initially, the group was the other three without me and was going to be called 'The Owl Trinity'; on the song 'Three Hits To The Dome', Fliptrix references that name. I was initially just going to do a feature on the album. I heard a few tracks and was really into the sound and the other guys invited me to be part of the group, then we became The Four Owls.
What are you most looking forward to about The Four Owls' first tour down under?
I'm most looking forward to the shows themselves, that's first and foremost. For all the people that have been messaging us for so long and asking for this to happen and all the people paying to see us, we are gonna make sure they have a memorable night. Other than that, I really want to just walk around and see all the cities we visit and meet all the hip hop heads out there and make connections; hopefully we'll have a bit of time to hit the beach and stuff too.
How are you guys preparing for the tour?
I'm getting drunk and performing a one-man rendition of every Four Owls song every night in preparation, that of course is not true but I wish it was. There is no specific preparation in terms of how we're going to perform; we have that down because we play a lot of gigs. In terms of all the travel though, I'm personally going to make sure I'm rested and mentally prepared. Any flight over three hours makes me start to get a bit claustrophobic. As the time draws nearer though I might get nervous and do a super intense, hardcore work-out or two and start eating healthier.
What can fans expect when they head along to the Australian shows?
The fans can expect four blokes jumping and shouting at them, which will consequently turn out to be the best night they've ever had. Expect four humans with owl faces swooping down and flying the fans on our backs to a new dimension. Expect your mind to be blown into a million, happy fragments each dancing and vibrating to rap ballads before you reform and become you again, but happier. Don't wanna over sell it or anything.
What are your own expectations of Australia?
I have high expectations because the crowds over there have a good reputation or at least from what I've heard. So I'm expecting a loud, rowdy, responsive crowd, and I have to remember that if someone calls me the C word it's not necessarily an insult.
What's your impression of Australian hip hop?
I don't have a very deep knowledge of Australian hip hop, but I was always a big fan of Brad Strut and his group Lyrical Commission. I met Brad at Hip Hop Kemp one year; also, he lived in England for a bit, he's a G and a very high calibre MC. Also Hilltop Hoods are dope and it's also good to see what level they have been able to reach as well. I recently did a feature for an MC from Canberra called Toddla who's sick. I've heard bits and pieces from a few up and coming rappers out there, but can't recall all the names. I look forward to hearing more.
The Four Owls' second album 'Natural Order' was released last year. How have you found the response to the record?
We've had a really good response to it. It was tough to know if people would like it as much as the first album, but it went down just as well so we're thankful.
Did the group take a different approach to producing this record compared to the first, 'Nature's Greatest Mystery'?
We spent a lot longer making it and we definitely spent a lot longer as a group writing together. In terms of the sound and rapping style, we didn't try to change that; just evolve what we did on the first one.
Are you working on any solo or other collaborative projects as Verb T?
I am working on a new solo album, which isn't far off being done. I've also just produced a new album, 'Abstract Patterns', for an artist called Chillman, which is out now. I've got another album I've produced for Moreone coming soon on In The Balance Records, which I'm excited to drop, and then plenty more production wise after that.
The Four Owls ShowsFri 21 Oct - The Game Sports Bar (Perth)
Sat 22 Oct - Uni Bar (Adelaide)
Thu 27 Oct - The Back Room (Brisbane)
Fri 28 Oct - Max Watts (Sydney)
Sat 29 Oct - The Corner Hotel (Melbourne)