Three albums and nearly 40 songs in just a span of a year and Cheat Codes is raring and ready for more, giving us their ambitious and unique projects.
When NYLON Manila had the opportunity to interview Cheat Codes back in May 2021, the group just dropped their debut album, Hellraisers, Pt. 1, and also the start of their trilogy album. At the time, they told us that they weren’t nervous at all with releasing three albums and nearly 40 songs in a span of just one year. And fast forward a year later, Cheat Codes just wrapped their trilogy album, and did so successfully. Making one full length album can be a challenging endeavor for many musicians. But making a trilogy of three albums can make the process that much harder. That wasn’t the case though for Cheat Codes.
It was a project that bore out of an idea during lockdown as the group used each album to show of a side of themselves, with Part 1 focusing on Trevor’s pop-leaning sound, Part 2 on Kevi’s Hip-Hop sound, and Part 3 on Matt’s dance-inspired sound. It was also a personal project for them as the name Hellraisers was given to them by their late manager. And the end result was a unique body of work and a creative feat that few artists have managed to pull off. But even with all that, Cheat Codes still has surprises up their sleeves, as seen with the recent announcement of their country album.
We recently got the chance to catch up with member Trevor Dahl and Kevin Ford to talk about the closing chapter of the Hellraisers trilogy, what they learned from the process, and much more. Read on below for our conversation with the group.
How are you guys feeling today?
TREVOR: We’re glad that, you know, third part is finally out. And yeah, we feel good.
How does it finally feel for the whole trilogy to finally come together?
KEVI: It’s kind of like, when you’re a kid, and you go to Disneyland for the first time. You know, it’s been like 18 months, 20 months journey that we’ve been making these three albums. And now they’re finally done. And now it feels spectacular.
How have you like taking all of it in when it comes to the fans response?
KEVI: Oh, it’s overwhelming, to be honest, you know, everyone’s just constantly praising and like, you know, all the fans are like, showing so much love and support. And we’re really grateful for that, grateful for them. And for everyone who’s listening to it.
Given how you released the album just months from each other, how do you make sure that part one and part two, part three can stand out individually?
TREVOR: Yeah, that was definitely one of the trickier parts of doing this sort of thing. Because, you know, it’s kind of uncharted territories. And we just kind of tried to, you know, try to find the balance with releasing songs and making sure it kind of lived its life before we released the next song. And, obviously, you know, it’s sort of a challenge when you’re releasing 39 songs over an 18 month period. So, it was interesting, but we’re glad that we were able to make it happen the way we did.
Throughout this whole process, what do you think you have learned about yourself and artists? Was there something that surprised you about yourself?
TREVOR: I don’t know of anything that surprised me about myself. I would say that we learned a lot, just being able to work with these new types of genres, especially for Part 2. So, that definitely pushed us as producers and as musicians, trying new things like that, but we’re always excited about doing that. So, it’s never something that we’re bummed about doing it’s always something that we’re excited about diving into.
Among all the collaborators you’ve worked with throughout this whole process, has there been like one that really stood out to you?
TREVOR: The process of working with Tyson Ritter from all American Rejects was very, very unique and very cool. And we’ve become very good friends with them. It’s cool you know, work with artists that are very very passionate and they care about what they do. He really cares about every single detail from the mix to the lyrics to the instrumentation to the video to photography to everything, so it was cool to see that.
For Part 3, one of our favorite songs is Payback which you did with Icona Pop. How did that song come together?
TREVOR: It was it was something that we wanted to do for a while. And you know, we’ve been bouncing back ideas back and forth for quite a bit and we’re able to make this one happen and we haven’t really done too many things that have that like sort of funky sound that we did on this one. And so yeah, once again, we were excited about trying to do something different.
Now that the whole trilogy is now out, do you then describe the story of Hellraisers?
KEVI: The story of Hellraisers. I say the story of how like if you look at all the stars up in the universe, and a comet full of lightsabers is just taking out the stars.
When we first talked to you, you guys mentioned how you are not nervous at all when it comes to releasing a new album. Do you think that you stuck to that? Or was there like a moment where you felt the nerves?
KEVI: I don’t think we were really nervous. I mean, there were certain times like, where we cut it close with, like, you know, delivering the single artwork with album artwork. But yeah, it’s more of a thrill and adventure to make everything and then watch it actually come out, you know, to have the roll out stuff.
Do you feel then that with everything that you’ve done for this era that you’ve achieved your goals for your career? Or is this like, just the first step for you guys?
TREVOR: Oh, it’s definitely the first step. You know, we’ve been around for quite a while, like seven years. But this is our first album, which is kind of crazy. You know, ever since we started, we kind of got tossed into it. So, in such a crazy way that you know, once we started releasing music that we started touring and releasing singles. And so we finally were able to, were able to put out this body of work. That’s something we want to continue to do. And we have a lot of ideas for what we want to do in the future as far as like, new albums and things like that. So, we’re just getting started. And we actually are finishing up another body of work right now.
Are you guys open to doing another trilogy album, or it will just be like single releases from now?
TREVOR: Never say never, who knows? 5-10 years or like, let’s do it again. Who knows. It was a lot of fun. But it was definitely a lot of work. And, you know, just especially that amount of time. Your brains kind of go crazy after a little while, but it was a blast to do. But I think that now I’m want to kind of stuck to smaller bodies of work one at a time and kind of explore different types of things that way.
You did so many songs in a short period of time. How then do you recharge your creative battery? How do you make sure that you don’t fall into a burnout mode?
TREVOR: We’re lucky that the three of us in that sense, we kind of give a lot of influences and ideas and we’re able to kind of keep it going that way without getting too burnt out. And, you know, like, right now, for example, we’re not touring too much this month or next month, we’re kind of taking it easy and working on music, even though it’s still working, but we don’t really feel burnt out. We just kind of are happy that we get to do this every day.
Do you consider Hellraisers to be the pinnacle of your career? Or is this just like, another step in like, your creative direction?
TREVOR: I’d say it’s just another step. It’s something that we’re really proud of, for sure. It’s definitely a huge milestone. But I wouldn’t say it’s the milestone or the pinnacle. I would just say it’s definitely something that we are just pumped about. But, you know, with everything that we do, we always hope that there’ll be something bigger and better, so we’re always just going to continue to take steps and hope, you know, people love the music that we continue to put out.
When people ask, what is Hellraiser, which songs from the trilogy do you tell them to listen to if they want to understand what it’s all about?
TREVOR: Oh, good question. Every section is meant to be sort of its own like, vibe and things. So, it’s a little tough to say one song to embody all of it, but I would maybe roll with Lean On Me with Tinashe. She’s super talented. And he just loved her music for such a long time. That would be the first one I want people to listen to.
KEVI: You know, one of my favorite ones has been Stay with Bryce Vine across all three. So, probably I’ll link people that one.
What advice would you give to other artists who might be interested in doing something ambitious as what you just did?
KEVI: For me, I would say to them, you know, you got to make sure that you’re having fun with what you’re doing and that you’re being open minded and being as creative as you possibly can be. And you need to stay consistent.
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