Big Brain 2013 Finalist: Club Fonograma, Online

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2013 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 27, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: Club Fonograma

Carlos Reyes takes a sip of his coffee and smiles. It's a big smile, a totally unguarded one. Dressed in shorts and a Superman T-shirt, he blends in nicely with the Saturday morning Roosevelt Row Jobot crowd, plugging away on laptops and browsing open textbooks.

But it's a fair assumption that no one else in the room edits what many have described as "the Latin Pitchfork," and even safer to bet that no one in the room finds that particular comparison as funny as Reyes.

"When I started the blog, I didn't even know what Pitchfork was," the 25-year-old Reyes says with a laugh. "The blog" in question is Club Fonograma. Boasting the tagline "We Are Iberoamerican Pop," Club Fonograma represents the efforts of Reyes and 10 volunteers to focus on South American "pop," a wide reaching term, Reyes says, encompassing garage rock, electro, dance, reggaeton, funk, and whatever else excites Fonograma's contributors.

A native of Santiago Papasquiaro, in Durango, Mexico, Reyes moved to Phoenix when he was 13. He launched clubfonograma.com in 2008 while studying film and media at ASU.

"I didn't see the approach to film criticism -- with an emphasis on 'context,' -- being applied to Latin Alternative music the way it was to Latin American film," he says. Inspired by reactions to Puerto Rican band Calle 13's album Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo and his collection of Slant magazines, he began blogging, mostly for fun.

"I started doing it for myself and my friends," he says, noting that a gap existed in Latin Alternative coverage. As if to prove his point -- that people want to read about exciting, adventurous music from Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and other South American countries -- the site quickly began attraction readers worldwide. "I don't promote it," he laughs, "but people started getting interested."

Today, the site attracts about 150,000 unique visitors a month and boasts endorsements from singer Julieta Venegas and Carla Morrison, a former Phoenician who fronted beloved indie band Babaluca before heading to Mexico and picking up two Latin Grammy Awards for her latest, Déjenme Llorar. Club Fonograma was an early booster of Morrison's work. Club Fonograma brought Reyes to the atención of MTV, Pitchfork, and NPR Music. The latter approached him about contributing to its Alt.Latino blog in 2011. Club Fonograma does have its detractors, he says, noting that while dozens of South American music blogs have popped up in the wake of Fonograma's success, many criticize the site for being written in English. It's a grievance Reyes is keenly aware of.

"I could love to have a bilingual site," he says, "but I don't have the resources right now. When I started the site, it was partially to work on my English. It was a very personal blog."

The site's roots may be in the personal, but it's become a destination for music fans looking to get a glimpse into what feels like a whole other world of kaleidoscopic pop sounds. The site creates exclusive MP3 mixes, which have proved to be big hits.

"People love them," Reyes say. "In fact, I haven't made one in a while, and people are starting to get impatient, saying 'When's the next mix?'"

Demand is a good problem to have, no?

"Yeah," Reyes says, with a beaming smile. "I better make one soon."

Buy a $10 ticket to enjoy an evening of food, drink and entertainment April 27 at the Monarch Theater in downtown Phoenix. Meet the finalists and learn who won during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia.

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