Hot off their (forgive the pun) smash hit “Sex,” Cheat Codes were down for talk. Here’s what we talked about:
What’s really good?
20something: We all know Max Martin used L1+R2+X+∆+X for unlimited hit songs, what are some of your cheat codes to life?
Trevor: We have the mentality of making everything easy [sometimes all that takes is not making it more difficult than it has to be] we go directly for what we want and skip the bullshit [check the emotional bags that hold thoughts of ‘you don’t deserve this’ or ‘make room for other people to succeed’ or ‘what if they get mad at you’ at the door]
A lot of people make things harder than they need to be, they get overwhelmed by the mountain ahead of them instead of looking for the next rock to step on. Don’t try to eat the elephant in one bite. Follow the process, not the prize. It’s a step by step process.
In music, a lot of people have an ego and won’t let other people help or collaborate with them — they’re not willing to do what you have to do in order to get the best song out there. We love to write, we love to throw ideas at each other, we produce a lot of the stuff, we write a lot of the stuff. We never waited for anyone to let us make music — a lot of artists wait for a budget, but we made all our songs with almost no money. We wrote it, we produced it, we mixed it, then we spent fiddy bucks on mastering. We always made it so we could create music without anyone limiting us. That’s how we’ve been able to make and release music consistently, all while doing it on our own terms and having fun with it.
Kevy, you’re a lowkey socialite — what’s really good?
Matt: Tell him about a couple weeks ago.
Kevy: Man, a couple weeks ago in New York…
Matt: New York?!
Kevy: New York? Oh, I mean Chicago. My bad, I’m out of it. So we played a show at The Mid Chicago and I got a little bit too turnt up, partied a little too hard, and started spraying the fire extinguisher in our hotel room.
Matt: Yeah we ran downstairs, pushing past babies and mothers — cause we thought we were gonna die. Turns out there wasn’t really a fire, it was just Kevy going off.
So in the end, 10/10 worth it?
Kevy: Well, uh, see, I got arrested the next morning. So maybe not. I would do it again if I didn’t get caught — it was a good time.
“Without having to wait for anybody”
20something: Trevor, let’s talk musicianship — how has your training evolved? Like, do you still have a vocal coach, do you do warm ups?
Trevor: I only had a vocal coach for like four lessons. Other than that, I just practiced a bunch, a bunch, a bunch. Definitely had to work at my voice a lot to get it to the point where I was comfortable with it. I’ve sang, written, and produced a lot since I was little.
Been writing and recording in my bedroom since I was 12, so that’s where I feel most comfortable. Whenever I go to these big fancy studios I feel kinda uncomfortable, like it’s kinda forced when you have a time limit.
It’s always been about being able to do it on my own terms when I feel creative and can have fun with it, that’s the only way I can get better and better and continue to love making music. After you’ve been doing it for a long time, it’s a matter of being open-minded, trying new things, and seeing what works and what doesn’t
Dope. So you got better by listening to yourself on record, seeing what’s good and what’s bad, and tweaking?
Trevor: Yeah, a lot of it’s just trial and error, replacing sounds with better sounds. I spent a lot of time learning to mix so I could, like I said before, release high-quality professional music without having to wait for anybody. It’s something I’ve worked at everyday and have tried to get better at.
Matt, you’ve been involved with the pop-punk scene for years, how did that help you with Cheat Codes?
Matt: When we started this group we were able to look at it with a different perspective and create a stand-out live performance. I’m used to having to keep the crowd engaged for the whole show. I was in a band before Cheat Codes, first as a bassist then a singer. I did music with this pop star named CeCe Frey and ended up on season 2 of the X Factor. Now when we play shows as Cheat Codes, we’re constantly engaging the crowd by singing and turning it into a real performance.
“Met him at the cemetery”
20something: Ok, ok. Um, so, your Shaman… about him…
Matt: Yeah, his name is Harry.
Kevy: Yep, Harry. Harry Paul the Shaman.
Matt: Yeah, I met Harry at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary.
*furrows brow* What?
Matt: I know…
Matt: They do, like, show there. Performances.
At the cemetery?
Matt: Yeah, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary.
That’s gnarly dude.
Matt: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. They were showing Moulin Rouge and he was sitting next to me when we offered me Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Almonds, which happen to be my favorite snack ever.
@youngstemcell on IG: Great shaman.
Matt: Yeah! So I was like ‘this guy’s so nice.’ then he gave me his card.
@wolftempura on the snap: And his card said Shaman?
Matt: It said “Harry Paul, Shaman.” He did a healing on me about four or five years ago when I moved to LA [from St. Louis] and it totally changed my life. He put me in this meditative state and opened my mind to a lot when I was 21 or so. We became good friends.
Then when Cheat Codes was formed, I introduced these guys to him and they were like ‘Wow, this guy’s amazing!’
20Something’s Richard Branson meets Dave Franco: So what’d he do to you?
Matt: We do breathing classes —
Trevor: I just go to a breathing class.
Kevy: Breathing class, man. We breathe for like an hour straight, then at the end of it you’re so relaxed because all the tension in your muscles in gone and you’re just vibrating.
*actual fact: Oxygenating your muscles with deep belly breathing breaks up the lactic acid that causes burn.*
Do you refer back to that kinda stuff when you’re stressed on the road?
Kevy: Yeah, exactly.
Matt: The techniques and the mindset, yeah.
Trevor: He’s just an interesting guy as well. What he talks about and his perspective on life are just open-minded and cool.
What’s a practical takeaway my readers can glean from Harry Paul the Shaman?
Matt: We love mentioning this in interviews…every time we talk to him, he ends the conversation with ‘alright guys, peace and love in your heart.’ We’re always like ‘wow, what a nice thing to say to somebody.’
Kevy: He’s great.
Matt: And yeah, he definitely introduced me to Breath Of Fire and deep breathing. A lot of time when you’re stressed, you get unnecessarily tense because your breath becomes shallow. Remembering to take real breaths really anchors me to the moment.
Trevor: Yeah, it’s a good class because most people don’t take time to focus inward, their always focused outward.
Matt: Your physical body is directly linked to your emotions, so you can cut out depression just by moving your body- change your physical position and smile!
Curious Mark: That’s awesome, and what is the Breath of Fire exactly?
Matt: Quick belly breathing through the nose, where the inhales and exhales are the same length. The inhale’s as long as a sniffle.
“I don’t like the whole ‘bad bitch’ mentality”
20something: So, uh, let’s talk abooout sex — what’s the Cheat Code to it?
Kevy: Like actual sex?
No, not like physical sex, like how do you go about picking the right girls?
Matt: They gotta be, like, chill. They can’t be too crazy. It’s a red flag when they’re too high strung or have attitudes, we don’t like girls with attitudes. They need to be humble.
Trevor [the single one]: I don’t like the whole ‘bad bitch’ mentality, where they’re super intense about everything. We like to chill out and relax. We’re not trying to stress anybody, we’re just here for a good time not to be like ‘oh, I’m so cool. I’m gonna act like the fucking man.’ We like happy people.
“I like Drake.”
20something: Ok cool, are you guys listening to any new music that 20Something should be aware of?
Matt: Yeah there’s this artist named CADE, he’s really dope-
Matt: Yeah that’s him, he just put out an EP through Spinnin’ and all the songs are awesome. Trevor actually produced the whole EP. And he’s actually our roommate, which makes it even better.
You guys all live in a house in LA?
Trevor: The music’s great.
Matt: He’s 19 and has a great voice.
Trevor: We’re also in Curbi, he just did a great remix for us.
Kevy: I like Drake.