Electronic-infused pop music trio Cheat Codes’ formation in 2014 was both naturally permeated and a bit messy. Back when Matthew Russell was still part of a hip-hop project and Trevor Dahl was following the singer-songwriter route, the two lived together as Trevor rented Matt’s laundry room to be his bedroom studio. “I remember being jealous that I didn’t think of that idea before,” shares Matt. Kevin Ford, known back then as King Kevi, used to rap while Matt would produce beats for him. Unfortunately, the guy who brought him and Kevi together stole money from them, so they had no choice but to take him to a small claims court. “Through that process, Kevi and I became really good friends, so it was like a fun, little adventure that we went on together to become friends,” says Matt. After the whole ordeal, all three came to a realization that they didn’t want to continue with where they were headed, music-wise, so they decided to create a new sound together, which resulted to their first single “Visions.”
Cheat Codes didn’t want to be put into a box—that’s why their sound is a mix of where they came from musically, highlighted by electronic beats, prominent piano and guitar, and pop hooks. “The possibilities are endless, and that’s what intrigued us about it. Electronic music is cool because it puts you in the producer’s chair, and being able to look at music in that perspective more than any other genre is so collaborative and everyone seems open to it,” says Matt. Sampling other artists to produce their songs wasn’t an idea that they were too open to doing at first, but when they saw the magnitude that their song “Sex” brought, a song wherein they sampled Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex”, their perspective on the matter changed. The trio recently released the music video for their latest single “No Promises,” featuring popstar Demi Lovato. Getting ready to go on their No Promises Tour, the band can’t wait to travel to places they haven’t played before and to hype everyone up.
Most of your songs have a strong positive vibe. What do you want your listeners to take from them?
Matt: The cheat code to life or to being successful is the idea of having fun—just relaxing into it and allowing it to be easy. I think a lot of us make things harder than they have to be, so we get to that point in our jobs and careers where we should view it as being easy so that it becomes easy. It’s not a coincidence; it’s more of a mindset. We had that point of view from the very beginning and that’s why our first song was called “Visions,” because we were literally envisioning places around the world where we wanted to play, and that within two years, we would like to accomplish all those dreams.
Are there any people that you guys take inspiration from for your style?
M: We’re really involved in the business side of our career. We really take inspiration from anybody that’s doing what they do successfully. We played a show with Steve Aoki in Dubai and the way he put his show on, he does it the same way as far as him throwing his cakes. He has a team that makes it happen, and I really respect that he shows up to really perform and not just DJ, as a lot of other DJs do. But as far as music goes, Calvin Harris is always at the cutting edge of keeping it relevant. We just love good songs.
“The cheat code to life or to being successful is the idea of having fun—just relaxing into it and allowing it to be easy.”
How’s it like playing in huge venues versus intimate settings? Which do you prefer and why?
M: We’re most comfortable playing in festivals, especially with ones that have a little bit of every genre, because when you go and see our show, we’re mixing every type of genre. We would play pop, EDM, hip-hop, and then we’re singing and hyping as well. Sometimes, if we play at a club, you have to limit the amount of interaction with the crowd.
“I think those are the best collaborations, with people coming from different worlds and creating something new.”
Any other dream collaborations for you guys?
M: We’d love to collaborate with artists that have never been on a dance song before, like Elton John or Paul McCartney, someone that would shock people just like how Calvin Harris did that a little bit with Frank Ocean for “Slide.” I think those are the best collaborations, with people coming from different worlds and creating something new.
Published in STATUS Magazine, June 2017