As the heat cools down, the summer dance anthem is still heard loud and clear – and the artists that collaborated with queen Demi Lovato on “No Promises” are as fired up as ever and ready to hit the road. In a whirlwind year, Cheat Codes has recorded with the biggest diva in pop music, up and coming songstress Maggie Lindemann, and EDM staples David Guetta and Robin Schulz…just to namedrop a few recent partners in crime. The trio is dominating the internet and airwaves with over 2 million streams of “No Promises,” a song now certified Gold or Platinum in nine different counties. (Probably even more as you read this.) Add in thousands of humans dancing to sets at Lollapalooza, Tomorrowland, Hangout Fest and several headlining shows earlier this year – and the band has shed quite the global light. Cheat Codes is made up of Los Angelenos Trevor Dahl, Matthew Russell and Kevin Ford. Two years ago, they collectively discovered the secret to life: getting what you want is easy if what you want is something that you truly love and work hard for. And there you have it: the wisdom of three DJs, come together in the west coast sun to drop beats and move audiences – and a pretty strong band name.
● What can audiences expect from your Fall tour?
Matt: They can expect a high energy show. Matt does a lot of the DJing, Trevor does a lot of the singing, Kevi does a lot of the hyping and we spray money at every show. We approach the shows as a performance and interact with the crowds a lot. Not just pressing play a lot, its really like we are showcasing our original songs but remixing them in a creative way that still feels like a DJ set.
● How involved are you guys in key aspects of the live show aside, for example, the visuals?
Matt: We are involved with everything in our brand. You could say we are too involved. From the merch to the music to the visuals to the single art.... we are involved with everything in our project and everything live has been our ideas.
● When touring, do the various locations trickle into your songwriting and influence your sound?
Trevor : Not so much in America but sometimes when we go to different countries, we are able to do different things and see what works in different locations. We are so influenced by everything whether we are traveling or even at home.
● When curating your live set, does the location factor into your deciding process, or is it more of an instinctual curation?
Matt: We like to give the fans the same experience so that when they come to a Cheat Codes show they are identifiable, but sometimes when we are playing we cater for geographic location. If we are playing in Europe we play a different set than if we were in US. If we play at a festival we might play a different set than if we were playing a nightclub.
● How have you grown as a band and as individuals since your debut album?
Matt: We haven't actually released a debut album yet- but since we started playing together, Kevi has grown an inch and a half! Just kidding! We have so much more endurance now, the first tour we did with The Chainsmokers was so hard and I was sick all the time, I didn't know how to handle tour. I am so much better now at traveling and playing tours.
Trevor: We came into this without knowing much about the dance world but we tried to write a new song every day and come up with new creative ideas every day and it really helped us to grow.
● You guys formed the band in 2014, how did you first meet?
Matt: I met Trevor when I was 18 and he was 16 and we played a show together at a pizza place in St Louis MO. I ran into him again years later in LA, and he needed a place to stay. He ended up staying in my laundry room and turned it into a studio. I met Kevi, who needed some hip hop beats. When we hung out we decided to form a group with all of our different sounds.
● Playing big arenas, I imagine, is a surreal experience. What is it like in terms performing in front of such a huge audience versus more intimate shows?
Matt: The main difference is that with an arena show you cant really see anyones face, so it's less nerve wracking. It's also way harder to hear yourself when you're playing big venues, but usually the energy is amazing when you can connect with so many people you feel pumped up. Playing small shows is fun too because you get to really connect with the fans and interact with them. We love also playing festivals when there are lots of different types of music fans because we like to appeal to people who like other genres.
● What’s next for Cheat Codes after the tour?
Matt: We are going to focus on getting into the studio and making a bigger body of work since we have mostly been focusing on singles. We are also working on a clothing line which should be dropping really soon and we are putting up a cool video series on Youtube so you can see everything that we are up to.
● Do you think it’s vital for musicians to constantly adapt their music to stop from having a limited shelf life, especially because the trends change so much in EDM?
Matt: If you're a singer and you break out as a big singer or rapper you're kind of locked with that sound. Eventually that sound isn't going to be the sound anymore. But if you're a dope producer you create the sound and you can always update the sound and keep evolving. For our personalities, we get bored really quickly and when you come from a production background it's easier to get bored so if you're creating the same sound for 10 years straight, the idea of that sounds awful. We have to put out songs with a lot of different types of people, that we're singing on it, completely acoustic, some with guitar, everything is different.
● What are your thoughts on “in the box” music versus live instruments?
Matt: I think they are different tools. That's whats great is that laptops allow a fifteen year old to have a hit song. It's amazing! A new tool that wasnt available 10 years ago, you would have needed a big studio. We come from a live band perspective where we know how to play saxaphone, piano, guitar, electric guitar, bass and more but we are not going to put that on every song just because we can. They are different colors on the palette that we can paint the canvas with.
Trevor: I love the idea of being able to utilize both to create a hybrid of both. That's the exciting part.
● You guys seem close and comfortable with each other, there’s a sense of solidarity--has it always been that way or is that something that developed over time?
Matt- It's always been there- now more than ever, but at the end of the day like minded people are attracted to each other. The more you can drop the 'me' mentality, the more you realize that reality isn't real and nothing matters at all. Whats the point of doing what were doing unless we are doing something new? We don't want to argue because that defeats the point of us doing this. If you can come together with a unified goal, you can work together really well.
Trevor- Part of it is getting ego out of the way. We have the same mentality.
● What's motivates you most aside from music?
Matt: Spreading joy to the world. We want to bring that message as much as possible, we played EDC for 50k people who dont even know each other and if they can all be unified under that message of joy and love, then that is the overall goal. We look at dance music as a vehicle for that- when we started we wanted to use it as a vehicle to spread a positive message. You can create something out of nothing.
● What's one of the craziest experiences you've had on tour? Any pre-show rituals?
Kevi: I got arrested in Chicago a few years ago- I partied way too hard with some fans and we went back to the hotel and I sprayed the fire extinguisher in the hotel and caused an evacuation. I woke up in jail, and the cop was actually really nice- he ended up taking me to the airport for my flight and right to the terminal and gave me my bag! That's probably the craziest time in my entire life.
● How did the collaboration with Demi Lovato first come about and what was it like collaborating with her?
Matt: We were both playing a show in Brazil together and our fans had suggested that we collaborate with each other. It was fate!
● Who are some of your favorite artists to remix and why?
Matt: Maggie Lindemann because I think that deep down inside of us, there is a Pretty Girl.
● How do you think Spotify is changing the music industry?
Matt: Seems like everything is focused on steaming- and Spotify's play listing is great. They pick their play listing based on analytics versus politics and that really helped us shift our focus and helped us break. We could focus on writing the best songs possible and it lets you put it the importance on that. It's not about looking cool or being on socials all the time. Spotify makes it be about the music again.
It's not about who has the biggest marketing budget, it's about the music. That's how we did it in the beginning.
● You have one day to live: what would do with your last day?
Matt: We'd go to Jamaica, we'd smoke a lot of weed, and play our favorite music. And we'd end it with a big finale show.
Kevi: We are immortal and we will never die.
Trevor: Never say die.
Photography by J Squared
Styled by Melissa Triber
Grooming by Caroline Yasukawa
For State Artist Management
Location by Parlour Room
Written by Jenni Dunn