Cheat Codes on Cardi B’s Advice, Working With Fetty Wap and New Music: Interview
Cruising up Venice Boulevard, the boys of Cheat Codes are chill in more ways than one.
Despite the instant success of new single "Feels Great," featuring Fetty Wap and CVBZ, which has already hit the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, Trevor Dahl, Kevin Ford and Matthew Russell are surprisingly calm upon hearing the news. "We’re just doing it for the culture," Ford shares, a quiet confidence piercing his voice.
The song, which follows the juggernaut success of Demi Lovato-assisted "No Promises," mirrors the growing obsession with youth. "We were sitting in the studio one night and we were talking about life," Ford says. "If you look at youth like a diamond in the sun, then you understand that diamonds are forever. So, youth is forever."
"With us, we’re doing what we love," Dahl expounds, unearthing the old adage "you're only as young as you feel."
"Our job is music," he continues. "Our job is traveling. It makes us feel young. High school wasn’t really our thing. For a lot of people, that’s the best time of their lives. We’re feeling those times are right now."
Rightfully so: Cheat Codes have accumulated hundreds of millions of streams so far. Their most popular track, a remix of Maggie Lindemann's "Pretty Girl," sits at over 317 million alone. Additionally, songs like "No Promises" and "Shed a Light" have snagged nearly as many. While they have clearly connected with a diverse pop crowd, they have yet to earn a No. 1 hit record, which could all change in the new year, when they plan to hit the studio to record their first album.
Below, the trio reflect on our youth-obsessed culture, working with Fetty Wap, their first full-length record and newcomer Cardi B's life advice.
How did Fetty Wap hop on your track?
Ford: When we started working on the song, there was this really cool ad lib, and it sounded like something Fetty would do. That sparked the idea of getting him. We’ve actually met him three or four times and played some shows with him. Every time we’ve hung out with him, he has the biggest smile on his face. We knew this song would be perfect for him. The cool thing is we had the hook and sent it to him. We thought he was just going to record the hook, but he ended up writing an entire second verse. It was cool he was able to bring his own perspective to it.
Why do people obsess over youth?
Dahl: Now, more than ever in today’s society, with the internet and social media, it’s easier for people to create their own business and own destiny. People make money off YouTube and Instagram. Those weren’t jobs before. It’s wide open. You can do anything you want in your life, and you can have fun at your job. People felt stuck before, 10, 20 years ago. That concept of “you’re as young as you feel” is really relevant to today’s culture.
Earlier this year, you also worked with Demi Lovato. What singers are on your bucket list?
Dahl: We were actually talking about this today. It’d be cool to have a song with Norah Jones. Everyone loves her.
Russell: I would love to work with Elton John or artists who have never been on a dance track before but would still be epic if you heard it in a club or at a festival.
Ford: I think Drake is sick. He’s a badass.
You recently posted about being in Atlanta to film the "Feels Great" music video. What can you tease about the concept?
Russell: It’s a crazy video. It’s insane. There is a bunch of stuff going on. It’s like a movie.
Ford: It’s set at a crazy house party and each room has a different vibe. We’re just having fun. We got Fetty Wap and did some performance shots on camera.
Ford: This guy named DJ. We didn’t even know his last name. We all just called him DJ. He’s the man. We had a great time with him. It was a long process figuring out what we wanted to do and who we wanted to work with. The party scene is so visually cool.
You formed three years ago. What’s your journey together been like so far?
Russell: When we started, we wrote, sang, recorded and produced in our bedrooms. Obviously, touring and financial things are different, but we are still making songs in our bedrooms and having fun just like we were three years ago.
Do you ever clash or find yourself needing to make artistic compromises?
Russell: We really haven’t had that issue. Most bands have a lot of fighting going on. With us, we all agree when it comes down to the creative stuff. We all trust each other with what we’re good at doing. There haven’t been any issues so far, knock on wood.
Is an EP or an album coming soon?
Ford: In January, we’re taking the whole month off. We’re going to be in the studio, but we’re not going to put too much pressure on what we’re making or set a certain amount of songs to finish. We’re just going to go in there and be creative. At the end of the month, if we want to release an EP, we’ll do that. If it’s an album, we’ll do that. Whatever. We’ll definitely release a body of work after January.
Do you have other songs ironed out for the project already?
Ford: We have a bunch of songs we really like and are happy about. But at the end of the day, we don’t know if we’ll release them. We always try to make better and better songs. Right now, we have a handful of songs. If we get in the studio and record 20 even better songs, we’ll pick those instead.
In what ways do you set about challenging yourself, musically?
Dahl: We try to be open to whatever new process is out there. Most artists or singers have a formula and won’t want to mess around with that. We like to push as much as possible, work with new writers and producers. Collaborating is the exciting part.
Who inspires you the most?
Dahl: Musically, it’s always changing for me. I listen to different styles all the time. I’ll hear something and pull an idea from it and then add in another idea from something else and combine them.
Russell: Non-musically, just as a person, I would say Oprah. She created a billion-dollar business. If you look at her interviews, she’s always just chill. She’s calm, relaxed. That’s something we believe you can do, have calmness of mind but still build a huge company. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever written a song?
Ford: There’s a street called Wyandotte where we made all the music in the beginning together. It’s this crafty little area. It’s pretty s---ty, but we had a lot of fun there. That’s where we made “Sex,” “Let Me Hold You,” “Vision,” “Adventure” and “Can’t Fight It.” We haven’t been back there in a while, but we love it.
What is the strongest asset you each bring to the band?
Dahl: I’d say my strongest asset is production and being in the studio, as far as piecing everything together in the final stages.
Russell: I would say it’s the live set and visually where everything can come in. It’s a complicated setup for us. We’re DJ’ing and singing live. We have very interactive moments with the crowd, too.
Ford: Mine is the style and coming up with the random ideas no one else comes up with.
How much does the live show influence your music?
Dahl: When we’re writing, we just want to write a good song. But the songs are going to have different functionalities with how we play them live. We might have a song that’s solely meant for clubs or festivals. Then, we might have a song that might only live in the pop world but maybe we’ll never play it live. We have a lot of songs out that we don’t play live. On the other hand, we also have some songs that we release that are more pop leaning, but when you hear it in our set, it’s a completely different version.
Being on the road so much, do you play pranks on each other?
Ford: We play pranks on each other all the time. Trevor is really good at scaring people. He always scaring us on the daily. Matt’s always pranking us with the joke about not having C02. “Oh, man, we’re not gonna have C02 tonight.” Then, I’m trying to prank them about the food they eat.
What is your absolute favorite show you’ve ever played?
Ford: It would be EDC, Mexico. That was lit.
Dahl: I would have to say Lollapalooza. It was pretty crazy. My mom and dad were there.
Russell: My favorite show was in Latvia. It was just a really cool country. The crowd was really excited to see us. I’ll never forget it.
What has been the most outrageous fan interaction you’ve ever had?
Russell: We played a show in Brazil last year. We get off the flight, and there’s like 100 fans waiting for us outside the airport. That was pretty intense, but it was good.
Dahl: We’ve played a show where the fans stole Kevin’s phone.
Ford: Yeah, I forgot about that.
How did you get it back?
Ford: We stopped the set and tracked it down. They were at a pizza place down the street.
Did the culprit at least give you pizza?
Ford: No. They should have, though. [Laughs]
In your YouTube series, "Too Easy," you three remain so relaxed and fun-spirited. How do you stay so grounded and unscathed from this industry?
Russell: We just have fun with what we’re doing. We don’t try to take it too seriously. We live in LA, and we’ve seen a lot of people who have that cocky mentality.
You recently met Cardi B. What struck you most about her?
Dahl: She’s awesome. Her personality is so great. She’s a good human. She gave us some words of advice, which was really cool. She said "you know what, at the end of the day, people are going to be scared of you succeeding because they see themselves in you. Don’t get down about the haters. If you got haters, that means you’re something. Something’s about to pop up."
What do you want in 2018?
Ford: We want a No. 1 song.
Dahl: I want to do an arena tour, although, I don’t know if that’s 2018 or 2019.
Russell: I want to do a tour in Asia and Australia.
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