TIGERILLA seems to have burst out onto the scene from nowhere, and when that happens it’s usually a big indicator that there’s exciting times ahead. The Adelaidean artist, born as Matthew Khabbaz, has been making moves for a few years and is on a rapid rise to being the next household name in the Australian dance scene.

2016 saw Khabbaz release TULIPS, an eclectic yet strangely catchy dance track, featuring good mate Gill Bates and one heck of a fun video clip, but where did it all start? “It really started in school in Adelaide. I use to play in this pretty average kind of band with a few mates,” shares Khabbaz. “We played When I Come Around and another version of When I Come Around and then some Grinspoon,” he laughs.

When one of those ‘mates’ happens to be Tom Gaynor, aka Allday, you suddenly get the opportunity to play with an act that is rising fast. “It was never necessarily a permanent thing,” Khabbaz admits. “It was really cool for a good couple of years and was a massive learning curve. Live performing actually gave me the opportunity to learn and get better, so that now when I’m on my own, I already feel like I know what I’m doing.”

Now with his latest release MERRYGO, Khabbaz is moving into the next phase of there TIGERILLA project. His sound has been described as “confident and effortless” by Richard Kingsmill, “brilliant” and also “wonky” and “dirty”. What has inspired the nostalgic feel to his music? “I was listening to a lot of older stuff from Pharrell Williams, NERD and Mark Ronson and really started appreciating the dancing aspect of those kinds of songs. They’re funky, they’re fun, they’re a little bit loose.” It’s this loose sound that Khabbaz is trying to embrace. “A song like TULIPS, for me, was a bit of a ‘crash bang’.”

Khabbaz is not one to sit back and watch however, and when he’s not touring around the country supporting acts like KLP, REMI and Nicole Millar or writing and producing tracks for others, like Mallrat and Kirklandd, he’s working on new material by himself and a new collaboration with fellow producer, Jesse Porsches. Together, they have formed a ‘super-duo’ dubbed SUPER CRUEL.

He gushes “That’s a big bucket list tick for me, working with Porsches.” Their debut track is November featuring a great guest vocalist in Lisa Mitchell. “We’ve got a lot of tracks now, but that was our first track we ever wrote together.” Is there an EP or album around the corner? “There’ll definitely be another single in the works, hopefully before Splendour In The Grass and then we’ll be looking at an EP.”

Whichever direction Khabbaz turns, there seems to be nothing but opportunity, especially in an era where Australian dance music is reaching fever pitch, both here and abroad. There’s always something to aim for and I ask him to pick his ultimate ‘top-liner’ vocalist. He doesn’t take long to reply. “I’d have to say, for a couple of reasons, firstly, because she’s an amazing songwriter, but secondly because she’s actually from Adelaide – I’d have to go Sia. That would be amazing.” Yes, it would, and if hard work and talent have anything to do with it, you can be sure that ‘TIGERILLA ft. Sia’ is just around the corner.

5 – 8 September, BIGSOUND, Fortitude Valley