“Be humble”…the trait Colby Reis, marketing coordinator at HARD, values most and offers to all aspiring young music professionals. “There’s a lot of people that have put a ton of time and effort into getting me where I am today, I wouldn’t be half as far as I am now without their support and faith in me.” It’s been a long journey for him, a journey that started in Portland, Oregon, where he was raised and first fell in love with music. He started out in high school band as a classical Saxophonist who quickly transferred his passion to the world of Jazz. He was always enamored with new genres and hearing new sounds, which eventually led him to start his own WordPress blog from his bedroom. “The electronic genre always stuck out to me because there had never really been anything like it before.” He got to narrate the rise of genres like Progressive House and Dubstep, a passion that quickly turned into a position at the site, INTO THE AM.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing, I never really do, and I just do what feels right.” Well things seemed to fall into place as he navigated his way through the web and soon headed off to college at the University of Oregon where he became the Editor in Chief at INTO THE AM. He managed a staff of around 14 people from his dorm room via a Facebook group he set up…a task he balanced with a tough curriculum of calculus and various Advertising classes. “It was amazing to have a voice when all this music was first taking rise,” he says as he recalls a phone interview with Avicii once already in bed due to the massive time difference, “I didn’t think anything would get as big as he did.” He used filmed footage of a Steve Aoki interview he conducted/shot/edited to gain entrance into the University of Oregon’s School Of Journalism and saw the potential to turn his passion into something more. However, over time, he outgrew the INTO THE AM platform and needed a different direction. Therefore, he pursued a new endeavor, Right Kids Wrong World.
He remembers how confusing those final years of college were, and was struggling to find his place in the post collegiate world. He felt like he didn’t really know anything and felt majorly unprepared to take on adult life. Right Kids Wrong World started for Colby when he read a quote by Rumi that said,
“Out beyond the ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. Meet me there.”
It really ignited something inside him. Right is relative and wrong is subjective… we’re all lost and trying to find our way. My goal was to provide a platform for self-discovery.
Although RKWW was somewhat short lived, it really helped Colby’s writing mature, and it led him to meet a ton of cool people that helped him to find his place. He remembers interviewing the lead singer of the White Arrows who spent the first half of his life legally blind, but now can see, and was an explosion of positive energy. “It was the fuel I needed to keep going. He told me the best advice was to be a snowflake, and for some reason that made a ton of sense to me.”
RKWW supercharged Colby and he was soon feeling ready to take on the music world again. He wanted desperately to try and find a way to get to LA. Gotta Dance Dirty was always one of his favorite sites, and happened to be based in LA. A mutual friend put him in touch with the owner, Jonah Berry who was pretty skeptical of a college kid in Eugene who wanted to be a part of his brand. According to Colby, “I remember sending him like three e-mails a week, each with stories coded in HTML format to plug in WordPress that I didn’t see posted onto his site.” This went on for a couple weeks until Jonah finally granted him credentials. “At the time, I had no idea how important this relationship would be.” He was back having fun again – covering shows and traveling to festivals. He was just about to graduate college though, and major life decisions laid ahead.
He setup an internship at a boutique PR firm based in Hollywood and had a promise from his Uncle in Orange County that he could crash on his couch. “I once again knew nothing, in reality, this was probably one of the more ridiculous decisions I’ve ever made.” He packed up his truck with everything that could fit and drove all through the night on July 31st to start his internship on August 1st. “I literally parked my car (still fully loaded with my belongings) in the parking garage and walked into my first day.” It took him 2 weeks of commuting 90+ minutes in the car to Hollywood at an unpaid internship before he realized he needed to re-evaluate (and make some money) his situation.
“I wanted something for myself, a career, a place to call my own, a new group of friends, and that’s where the Gotta Dance Dirty fam kicked in.” They took him in, took him to shows, introduced him to their friends, and he quickly formulated a footing in LA. He took on more tasks at the site, helping in anyway he could to keep himself busy while searching for a better job. “I now knew what I didn’t want to do, and I think that’s what helped me find better direction.” It wasn’t until the GDD™ owners put him in contact with his current boss, Danny Bell, that the stars truly started to align. “They sent an e-mail (that I didn’t know was happening) that said: If you’re looking for some help at the HARD office, the dawg Colby J could be a great asset. So I sent over my resume and cover letter and the rest is history.” Danny said, “I’ll see you on Monday.”
Like the GDD™ fam, HARD is a pretty tight knit group. He had a lot of late hours early on, and took on tasks he didn’t fully understand, but it’s his drive to succeed that helped set him apart from his predecessors. “I remember one day, Gary (Destructo) asked me to build his tour website. I’ve never created or published a website in my life! But I told him I would and that I could…I didn’t think I could tell him no!” He spent the weekend on YouTube tutorials custom coding and building a website in Adobe DreamWeaver to deliver to Destructo on Monday, a feat that gave him enough confidence to push forward with his time at HARD. “I realized I had an opportunity to find my place here and turn it into whatever I wanted, and I wasn’t going to let that go to waste.”
They eventually honed in on his marketing talents and advertising expertise as they brought him on full time after three months as a Marketing Coordinator. “I’ve been really fortunate to learn from Danny and Gary. They’ve built an unbelievable brand. I never thought when attending the inaugural HARD Day of the Dead in 2012 that I would eventually be a part of the experience.” Now with the responsibility of managing their various social media accounts, he relishes in the opportunity to package up these beautiful moments in time to commemorate the music forever on the web. “I get to remind fans why they love music, and in return I rediscover my passion day after day.” He gets to watch the beauty of the music festival unfold from the on-sale date to the last note ringing out to the crowd.
HARD Summer 2014 was the first festival he saw the entire social media campaign through from start to finish, another amazing opportunity that helped define his career thus far. “Running the on-site socials for HARD Summer 2014 was one of the more magical experiences I’ve had.” With a staff of two to help him, he packaged up the festival for fans all over the world and helped bring it to life for those who couldn’t attend. “It was a treat to work so closely with the preparation and planning aspect of throwing a festival, I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen, which in turn helped me know exactly where I needed to be to capture those incredible moments in time.” He’s never felt so accomplished as he did when HARD Summer concluded. His highlights include orchestrating Instagram interviews with A-Trak, Disclosure, and Martin Garrix that he calls “HARD Hitters,” as well as watching the outpouring of love and praise that followed the festivals conclusion.
While a lot has been accomplished in his one-year period in Los Angeles, a major moment in time came from a different aspect of his musical journey. The Interns, a DJ side project, where he shares the decks with fellow Gotta Dance Dirty writer, Sean Tokuyama, received the opportunity to play the 7UP Stage at EDC Las Vegas this year. “It was only our fifth gig ever, I remember hopping on the Insomniac website to check out the lineup, and there we were sandwiched in between Tiesto and The Martinez Brothers.” Scoring the sunset slot from 8-9 pm at the Motor Speedway provided a large crowd, larger than they’d seen at club shows in Los Angeles, and provided Colby the opportunity to live out a dream he thought he’d never get the chance to do. “I’ve honestly always wanted to play at a music festival, going so often I always find myself analyzing and improving what other DJs set in motion, this gave me the chance to prove that and live out a major fantasy of mine.”
According to Colby, this isn’t something he could have predicted, where he is now vs. where he started, and he has no idea what the future may hold. When asked for his parting words he shared, “There are no limits except the ones you set yourself. Stay hungry, stay foolish, and wake up every day with a renewed sense of optimism and thirst for the unknown. Love who you are, love what you do, and never stop dancing.”