Every band has their story of how they came together. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger grew up together in Kent, meeting as teenagers to form The Rolling Stones. Ozzy Osbourne caught the attention of his Black Sabbath bandmates after putting out a local ad reading, “OZZY ZIG Needs Gig.” The founding of Cheat Codes, on the other hand, began with a laundry room. “On January 4th, 2012, I moved to Los Angeles and didn’t know anyone. Through mutual friends, I found myself at a Denny’s and Trevor [Dahl] walked in with that exact yellow beanie,” says Matt Russell, one of the three DJs of Cheat Codes. “I was like, ‘Hey, I remember you. We played a show together when I was 18 years old at this pizza place in St. Louis.’ A couple of months later, he needed a roommate and I wanted to save some money, so I told him that we had an empty laundry room and we’d only charge him $200-300 bucks a month.”

“It was actually my idea,” Dahl refutes. “I said that no one was living in that laundry room and I could pay $300 a month, I’ll turn it into a studio.” After living together for a few years and making music on their own, Dahl met Kevin Ford, who goes by KEVI professionally, and it didn’t take long for the trio to start making music together. “I called up Matt and was like, ‘You’ve gotta meet this guy Kevi, he’s going to be my best friend and he’s crazy,’” Dahl laughs. “So we all met up together in L.A. and decided to make a song, then see what happens. We got in the studio and the first day we ever wrote together we made a song called ‘Visions,’ which we put out as our first song as Cheat Codes.”

The trio had instant musical compatibility and despite it being the first time working together, they were able to find harmony from the jump. “We’ve all collaborated and worked with different types of people, whether it’s writers, singers or instrumentalists,” Dahl explains. “Sometimes you just get along with people and you create without any barriers slowing you down. It just kind of happened without having to force it.”

Photo by Peter Roessler

Photo by Peter Roessler

They were able to find success working together because, as Russell explains, they each brought something unique and important to the group. “Trevor has more of an eye for detail and I’m more big picture,” he says. “Kevi has a different perspective than Trevor and I because he grew up in L.A. and has been around creative people his whole life. He’s the most trendy one and knows what’s about to happen that nobody knows about. I’m from St. Louis and we always get shit last, so I need that in my life.”

The group were able to gain momentum because of their collaborative projects, beginning with their 2016 single “Sex,” which was created alongside Dutch DJ trio Kris Kross Amsterdam. Then, in 2017, Cheat Codes found broader success when they teamed up with Demi Lovato for their single “No Promises.” “We were working on that song with Lauv and Loote and as soon as we heard it, we thought it would be perfect for Demi,” Dahl says. “Luckily, when we sent it over to her team, she loved it. It’s kind of crazy that we manifested that in our heads and it came together. At the time, for her to take a chance on us was a really big leap of faith on her part.”

These singles helped put Cheat Codes on the map as an electronic band to watch and allowed them to travel the world. Touring has been a big part of Russell, Dahl and Kevi’s lives for the past several years and they’ve been on plenty of unusual adventures. “We’ve done some pretty bizarre stuff and it feels like an alternate reality sometimes. But we’re lucky to do what we do,” Dahl says. “One time, we ordered more than 50 Moscow mules to our hotel room in Sweden. I got an elephant tattoo and it turned out great, even though the artist was wasted too.”

Dahl wasn’t the only member of Cheat Codes who got tattooed that night, as both Russell and Kevi have their own stories from Sweden. “I got this big cross [points to chest] right here and I remember looking in the mirror and hating it,” Kevi laughs. Russell got an Om symbol on the back of his neck, which he admits he “can’t even see, but hope it looks good.”

After spending months on tour, Cheat Codes decided to change things up and settled down for a little while to work on a brand new project. “We’re working on our first album,” Dahl says with excitement. “Before this, we’ve only done singles and two EPs. This will be our first time making a big body of work that feels cohesive. It’s been a challenge, but it’s also been fun and different for us.”

In January 2020, they sat down for a few weeks and recorded as many sessions as possible in the studio. “We had like 40 song ideas and slowly started picking our favorites, letting our least favorites fall to the bottom,” Dahl explains. “It’s the next step in the Cheat Codes sound. It definitely sounds like us, but we’re adding more hip-hop and less drops. It’s a bit less dancey and more Cheat Codes as artists, as opposed to Cheat Codes as DJs.”

With more music, more shows and more tattoos ahead of them, this is only the beginning of Cheat Codes’ journey. And while we don’t know the nitty gritty details of their new album or who they’ll be collaborating with next, we can't wait to tune in.