Interview: Matthew Russell of Cheat Codes


Cheat Codes is on a roll. The three-piece EDM group, which consists of Trevor Dahl, Kevin Ford, and Matthew Russell, recently signed to 300 Entertainment (the label of Fetty Wap and Young Thug). Which is surely an indication that it will continue to be successful. Earlier this year, the band played Billboard Hot 100 Fest and Firefly. Now, they’re on tour with Matoma, playing shows across the nation.

We were recently able to chat with Matthew Russell while Cheat Codes was on the road. Read on to learn about the band’s craziest fan encounter, favorite video games, and more!

The Young Folks: Let’s start off by introducing Cheat Codes to our readers. If you had to describe Cheat Codes in three words, what would you say?

Matthew Russell: I would say, “Cheat Codes, your party.”

TYF: What inspired you to make EDM music?

Russell: We all have different musical backgrounds, and we all got bored really quickly, and we were just kind of jumping around between topics, subjects. We started getting into dance music because we could kind of do whatever we want. There’s like, less limitations. It’s very collaborative, you know. You can do dance music but you can collaborate with a rapper, you can collaborate with a rock artist, or you can sing on the track yourself, or you can have a different vocalist. So I think that whole collaborative, no-limits approach to the genre really appealed to us.

TYF: You’ve incorporated samples from the likes of Salt-N-Pepa and Kevin Lyttle into your music. What are some other artists and songs that you might like to sample in the future?

Russell: You know, we’ll probably take a little bit of a break from that for a while, honestly, but…we really like this song called “Fly” by Sugar Ray. And that would be super sick to remake, in my opinion.

TYF: You also write your own lyrics, which is impressive. What is your songwriting process like?

Russell: A lot of times, we start with the song first, so we might do it with acoustic guitar, or like piano chords, and then if we really feel the song is really strong on its own, without all the production, then we usually move forward from there, and then we add all the bells and whistles. [Because] if it’s stripped down, and the song’s kinda catchy, then that’s gonna be a hit, you know?

BM: Now that you’ve shared the basic facts about Cheat Codes, let’s talk about your recent success. You guys have been doing really well lately. A few days ago, you announced that you had signed to 300 Entertainment. Congratulations! How did that come about?

Russell: Thanks! Thank you! Um, you know it came about, uh, it’s kind of a funny story…We were in New York, and our manager was like, “Hey! Can you guys do this meeting real quick? I mean, we’re not gonna sign you guys, but it’s always good to do a meeting,” and we were like, “Okay, cool!” (Laughs) And then we had the meeting, and we were like, “Oh, we actually really like these guys! They’re really cool!” We really vibed with them…Honestly, the reason that we signed with them is they have, in our opinion, the best business model for the way that we do our business. They’re forward-thinking, and they work really well with technology and also important social media companies and stuff like that. I mean they’re funded by Spotify, Google, and YouTube, so, that’s, like, amazing. They give us the freedom to run our operation how we want to, which is really important to us. Part of the reason we didn’t want to sign before is because we felt like we were going to be losing a lot of our freedom. So they really understood that, as well, and we really vibed with them, so we’re really looking forward to it.

TYF: You also played Firefly this year. Do you have any funny or interesting stories from that experience that you would like to share?

Russell: There’s some fun stuff that happened. I’m trying to wonder what exactly I can share with you that would be appropriate. (Laughs) Yeah, it was kind of funny, we ran into these guys that were smoking weed, and then we ended up smoking with them, and then they ended up getting in the crowd, and they had this huge flag, this huge, huge blunt flag…I jumped in the crowd and I grabbed the blunt flag, and I waved the blunt flag. Yeah, that was pretty fun. I liked that. (Laughs) But that was a great concert, just one of the biggest concerts I’ve played. Just overall, an awesome experience.

TYF: You’re currently on tour with Matoma. What has that experience been like so far?

Russell: It’s been really awful, man. Like, we really hate these guys a lot. (Laughs) No, I’m just kidding. I’m actually on the bus right now. I wanted to hear if they would get mad, you know. Maybe just start some drama…Get press from it, you know? No, they’re actually really great. We’re having a great time. The tour’s been going really good. A couple sold-out shows.

TYF: What can fans expect from a Cheat Codes show?

Russell: High energy is kind of our gift. Shirts off. We take our shirts off, throw water at people, sometimes champagne. We’re bringing a shark in…pirate ships and shit. Yeah, it’s pretty fucking crazy. It’s the ultimate party, definitely.

BM: It’s easy to see from your Twitter account that you have lots of devoted fans. It seems like every day, people tweet you happy messages and send you their original artwork. What is it like to have such a dedicated following?

Russell: It is amazing. We love them. We love our Cheaters, love the Cheaters community…Yeah, they’re really, really talented. They have really good drawings. Actually, you know, what we’re most stoked about as far as social media is the brand-new fan page that just got created. It’s called Cheat Codes Farts. And, yeah. We’re super stoked about that one. Um, this is a real page. I’m not joking. (Laughs) Yeah. Check it out.

TYF: What is the most memorable fan encounter you’ve had?

Russell: Most memorable fan encounter I’ve ever had. What do you think, Trevor?

Trevor says something faintly; they laugh.

I don’t know. Honestly, they’re all amazing, stoked that we’re there. I don’t know. Are you meaning memorable as in, like, positive? Or like, funny?

TYF: Either way. Positive or funny. Whatever you want.

Russell: We’ve played shows where everyone’s super hyped, but then people kind of rush the stage, so there’ll be a bunch of people onstage, but we’re just going with the flow…and then there was one show where Kevi got his phone stolen during the show, so we ended up having to stop the show. We stopped the set to kind of like, say, “Hey. We’re not gonna play until you give Kevi his phone back.” But he never got his phone back. So he just kept on playing because he felt bad. But we ended up finding his phone at a local Pizza Hut. Kevi got it back, long story short. But I guess the girl was just thinking, If I have his phone, he’ll have to come meet me. You know? Sometimes you get die-hard fans like that…They’ll stop at nothing, you know?

TYF: I’ve noticed that Cheat Codes likes to share motivational quotes on its social media pages. What are some of your all-time favorite quotes?

Russell: Well, that’s a good question. I just read a couple recently…I’m trying to think in my head…Um…(Laughs) Sorry, Kevi was like, looking up quotes. I was like, “You suck!”

TYF: You can paraphrase. You don’t have to say it word-for-word.

Russell: Yeah. I don’t know why I’m like, blanking on that…”You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one.”

TYF: That’s a good one.

Russell: Yeah! We just try to post positive stuff every day, and motivate people, and, you know…”Your vibe attracts your tribe!” Yeah. That’s a good one.

TYF: Speaking of positivity, what advice do you have for all the aspiring songwriters and DJs reading this interview?

Russell: Do it every day. Try to really dedicate yourself to it, because you’re not gonna get good at anything unless you put in your hours—you know, put in your ten thousand hours. When we first started, we kind of just locked ourselves in our studio—and we had been doing [music] for years before that anyway, but you know, we started the project—and we were like, “Let’s just do as many songs as possible.” I think we wrote like, 30 or 40 songs before we put anything out. I think the fact that we did that, and we took the time to do that, it really helped us get better and kind of figure out what we wanted to do with the music. So I think music is the most important, honestly, and I think I would go from there.

TYF: Since you guys are called Cheat Codes, what are your favorite video games to play?

Russell: Grand Theft Auto is definitely my favorite. Call of Duty. Pokémon. I’ve never really played Call of Duty that much, but the zombies is really fun. You know, what’s really fun, too, is…

Trevor Dahl, in background: Matt’s scared of zombies.

Russell: I’m scared of zombies, but when I play the game, I feel like I have control.

Dahl: You can kill the zombies.

Russell: I can kill the zombies…Have you ever played Sims? Do you play Sims? You type in the cheat code “rosebud,” you get all the money you want.

TYF: Oh, nice! I’ll have to try that.

Russell: Check it out. Rosebud.

TYF: I just got a Cheat Code from Cheat Codes. That’s pretty cool.

Russell: Yeah, exactly. Now you know.

TYF: What’s your favorite track on Mario Kart?

Russell: Oh, man. Well, I’ve been playing this one on my Gameboy…Some of them are pretty tough. I like the Donkey Kong one. There’s like, dinosaurs and shit running across the track.

TYF: I like Rainbow Road. Rainbow Road’s a classic.

Russell: Yeah, that one’s classic. It’s a little too tough for me. I get frustrated.

TYF: Is there anything else you’d like to say to your readers and fans before you go?

Russell: Yeah. We’re working on a new EP that we’re gonna put out through 300, so look out for that. We have about four [or] five songs that we’re really stoked about. It should be coming out in the next two months. So I think that’s probably what we’re most excited for. And we’re gonna be filming a music video this month that we hope to put out before the end of the year.

TYF: Oh, that’s exciting. Can you guys share any details about that, or not yet?

Russell: No, we can’t really share any details, actually. It’s gonna be our next single that we put out.

TYF: What can fans expect from the next EP?

Russell: It’s gonna be the best songs we’ve ever done. Best songs we’ve ever put out. Really great songs. We’re excited about it because we pretty much always drop singles.


To find out more about Cheat Codes and see their upcoming tour dates, check out their official website

Brittany Menjivar is a seventeen-year-old music enthusiast who listens to everything from Britpop to EDM to up-and-coming Warped Tour bands. She is passionate about many things in life, including (but not limited to) flower crowns, Foster the People, S. E. Hinton novels, scimitar-horned oryxes, The Great Gatsby (both the book and the 2013 film), theatre, the music of Damon Albarn, blue raspberry ICEEs, and thought-provoking films. Brittany loves spreading the word about interesting ideas, which is why she writes for TYF and serves as the editor of her school newspaper and literary magazine. She also loves metaphors and similes, which explains why she enjoys reviewing music so much. In addition to being a member of the TYF staff, Brittany is a poet who has been published in KaPow! Creative Writing Zine, The Noisy Island, Crashtest, and YARN. If you're reading this, she hopes your day is full of good art and good vibes.