If you’re someone who frequently listens in on radio stations, or you regularly check out the top chart playlists on music streaming platforms, Cheat Codes is one music act you’ve definitely heard of, one way or another. After Trevor Dahl, Matthew Russell, and KEVI formed their group in 2014, the trio released their debut track “Visions” the year after, and it seems like they haven’t left music charts since with all their global hits. The group has since successfully populated top EDM and pop lists throughout the years, with huge collaborations featuring some of the music industry’s most popular artists.
A few of their biggest hits include “No Promises” featuring Demi Lovato, “Only You” with Little Mix, “Pretty Girl” Remix with Maggie Lindemann and CADE, and so many more big names beefing up their resume. The winning recipe for their most popular tracks have always been its addicting beats you can’t help but dance to, and wordplay and lyricism that are too catchy to not sing along to. Over the years, it has become the trademark “Cheat Codes Sound,” that ultimately gets passed on to from one listener to another.
With all these top-charting numbers, it comes as a massive surprise to hear that the trio hasn’t released a full-length album since their debut. Perhaps it comes with the territory of constantly being in radio plays and massive global playlists—the name sticks with people enough that it creates an illusion of abundance. In this case, it’s a classic example of “quality over quantity” as the trio met hit after hit with each new quality single.
Photography by David Higgs.
The success this brought the group allowed them to travel the world with songs everyone knew, pushing them to be on the road for better parts of the year. When members Matthew and KEVI sat down with Rank Magazine to discuss new music, KEVI shared that this is also why they haven’t been able to sit down, write, and produce the full-length album they’ve always wanted to release.
“After our first or second song that blew up, we started traveling a lot. We were always on the road for four or five days a week. We actually started working on the album a few months before the pandemic hit, but then the pandemic hit, then we had nothing else to do. We were all locked at home, just on Zoom. So, we did a whole bunch of sessions, and did a whole bunch of songs. So, it’s kind of like a silver lining for us, through the pandemic, to work on this album,” he opened up.
When KEVI said “a whole bunch of songs”, that literally means, in Cheat Codes’ lexicon, locking in over thirty tracks in the span of a few months. It seems that the group only truly needed to sit down and get to work to finally share a full collection of music with the world, as pandemic-produced album Hellraisers Pt. 1 is only the first chapter of a three-part project.
Released in May, Hellraisers Pt. 1 is an eleven-track body of work that perfectly encapsulates Cheat Codes’ magnetic and addictive sound. Russell shared that these tracks are new ones they’ve whipped up through Zoom sessions, and a few ones from that vault that got a 2021 revisit. From initially planning to only work on a single album, the collection grew more and more as the lockdown progressed, resulting to three individual sets.
Producing a three-part album has always been on the cards for the group, they shared. KEVI revealed that, since their formation, they’ve always wanted to release something that could showcase each member’s individual style, sound, and direction. Because of the number of tracks they were able to produce during lockdown (over a hundred!), the timing naturally fell into place for this project to finally come to life.
As Part 1 focused more on Dahl’s pop flair, he noted that Part 2 and Part 3 leaned more towards him and Russel’s tastes, respectively, ranging from emo-slash-punk rock and hip hop for KEVI, and electronic dance for the former. Basically, fans and music lovers can be rest assured that whatever genre they’re hoping to hear out of the group’s ever-growing discography, there’s going to be something for them there.
“We had so many songs, honestly, and we didn’t want any to go to waste. So it was the perfect opportunity to do what we originally wanted to do when we first started Cheat Codes,” KEVI added.
Cheat Codes with Tinashe
The latest track that marked this new chapter is “Lean On Me” featuring Tinashe, the standout single to celebrate the album’s much-awaited release. With the group’s signature upbeat sound mixed with Tinashe’s soulful R&B voice, the song is an instant pick-me-up for rainy days as the beat alone can put anyone in a groovy funk, while the lyrics embody a powerful message of friendship, camaraderie, and being there for one another.
The accompanying music video is all fun and positivity as the trio and Tinashe visibly enjoy their time dancing and cruising along Los Angeles. Produced by Cheat Codes themselves, Russell shared that the overall message of the film and the single is really having fun and letting go with friends even in the darkest of times. With everything happening around the world, it’s a welcome reminder that we’re not alone.
“Everybody is going through this whole pandemic, and everybody just needs somebody to lean on to get through the struggles,” he remarked.
At the end of the video, there’s also a little surprise attack with a huge, ferocious-looking, flower. Not to spoil what happens, but it’s in tune with the theme of Hellraisers‘ captivating art works, decked out with creepy and not-so-little toothy flowers.
Now, years into their illustrious careers, and the group has definitely grown stronger than ever, with a more impassioned commitment to make music we can all jam out and dance to. Writing and producing one album could potentially take up a lot of time and energy, but to come up with three is a whole different level of productivity and, we imagine, a whole lot of stress.
Photography by David Higgs
Russell circled back on this while talking about the group’s work dynamic, emphasizing how it helped massively in their ability to stay inspired and productive despite everything happening around the world:
“It’s cool to be in a group because you can bounce off ideas with one another. I think if you do a lot of ideas on your own, it’s easy to get stuck when it’s like, ‘I don’t know how to take this’, or ‘I don’t know where to go’. But when you have a group, maybe they have an idea that could move the idea forward, and help finish it. It just keeps things moving, honestly. We always have new ideas, and we always have something going on that’s going to inspire us.”
He continued, “We like to keep it moving, we like to keep the momentum going, no matter what we’re doing. Everything can be inspiring, and we’re really just looking forward to coming back.”
The release of Hellraisers Pt. 1 fittingly ties everything up as we all brave and embrace this new chapter of slowly getting back out there in the world. With 11 new tracks, and so much more on the way, it’s a collection that gives off just the energy we need to get excited about our days again, and look forward to upcoming moments with friends and loved ones around us. Not to mention good, hellraising music.
Hellraisers Pt. 1, with standout single Lean On Me featuring Tinashe, is out now on all major platforms, giving us a fun and energetic soundtrack as we raise hell once again out in the world. Just don’t forget to watch out for giant grinning flowers.
With additional text by Leo Balante