Before Cheat Codes even released their Demi Lovato collaboration “No Promises” in March, they already had nearly 1 billion Spotify streams thanks to their hits “Sex” and “Let Me Hold You (Turn Me On)” — a mark they’ve now handily broken with “No Promises,” which has more than 177 million streams alone.
But despite the big numbers, the Cheat Codes guys (Trevor Dahl, Matthew Russell and Kevin Ford) only recently got to celebrate another milestone: their first Billboard Hot 100 hit.
“No Promises” currently sits at No. 77 (chart dated June 24) in its fourth week on the chart. Russell jokes to Billboard that they’re “pretty much watching the charts like every second of every day just obsessing over it,” but in reality, it wasn’t until Ford noticed a fan’s shout-out about the Hot 100 achievement on Twitter. “I didn’t even know and I was like, ‘What? This is real?’ It’s like, ‘What the heck? We should know this sh– right away!’” he laughs.
Continuing the playful banter, Russell adds, “When we saw it, we peed our pants.” The guys — who are as fun as their playful dance tunes — chatted with Billboard about how the song came to be, Lovato’s role in the process, and what’s next now that they’ve reached the Hot 100.
How did “No Promises” come together? Did you always envision Demi being featured on it?
Matthew Russell: We played with her in December in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and when we left that show, a lot of the fans were hitting us up and saying we should collab because they had enjoyed the festival and wanted to see what our sounds would sound like together. We had the song “No Promises,” and we had a moment of “Wow, she would be the perfect fit for this song if we could choose anyone in the world.” She was our No. 1 choice and we sent it to her — she really just connected with the song, and a few months later, she recorded it in the studio with Trevor and just kind of knocked it out.
What kind of changes did Demi make to the song after you’d brought it to her?
Russell: She kind of just tweaked some lyrical content to make it a bit more from her personal experience. The thing with Demi is, the reason her vocals sound so good is because she’s singing from a real place of personal experience, and that’s kind of why we wanted her on the song. We had the general outline and concept of “No Promises,” and she kind of put it into her own words, which is what we wanted anyway.
Is there a specific line you can think of that she brought to the table?
Russell: I remember working on the song and loving the line “I just want to dive in the water with you.” It just represents that idea of like, you’re really enjoying this relationship and it’s really new, so you’re kind of scared to take that next step, but until you really dive in the water with them and commit, you’re not going to really reach the full peak of that relationship as far as what it could be. So that was a really critical line, for me that really brought it together.
You guys teased “No Promises” at the Beyond Wonderland festival before officially announcing it — did the reaction give you any inkling that this would be a successful song?
Russell: Those are the best places to experiment with songs because in a sense you have a sample group, like a focus group. [Laughs] That was the first time we’d ever played it and everybody loved it — I remember a lot of people remembering that moment as one of their favorite moments of that day. That’s a good indicator for us. For us, being songwriters, producers, but also DJs, we want as many songs to add to our arsenal because at the end of the day, every crowd is different.
— billboard (@billboard) March 25, 2017
Is that kind of why you decided to release “Stay With You” when “No Promises” is still doing so well?
Russell: From the very beginning, our whole plan of action was that we want to release a song every month. Fans want stuff all the time, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be thought of as “Is this going to be a radio hit?” Sometimes, you’ve just gotta give content that they deserve to hear. We’ve been putting out music since 2015 and put out a song every single month — we’re getting back to that because we took a small break at the end of last year just because of the success of “Sex” and “Turn Me On” and we were touring a lot. Until the fans reach out to us and say they’re really annoyed that we’re giving them too much music, we’re probably not gonna stop.
Going against the norm of releasing songs kind of goes in line with the name Cheat Codes.
Trevor Dahl: That’s the whole idea behind everything.
Russell: That’s something we believe in. The concept behind Cheat Codes really brought us together. We all believe in the idea of making things easy and breaking the rules. We are the first DJ group that’s sung on our songs, sang live and things like that — before The Chainsmokers. We just want to break the rules, switch things up, and take the whole EDM/DJ world and kind of flip it upside down as far as doing things new.
Have you been able to celebrate the success of “No Promises” with Demi?
Russell: I think part of our mind-set is that every day is a celebration. You should be celebrating that you’re alive, you’re healthy and above ground. And we hope to inspire other people to have that same mind-set. People kind of look at what we’re doing and they’re like, “Wow, if I had a big song like that, my life would be complete.” At the end of the day, we’re just as happy now as when we were broke and sharing a bedroom eating ramen noodles.
A version of this article was published in the June 17 issue of Billboard.