In the local indie scene, Nick Lazaro is mostly known as the frontman of Twin Lobster, an underground rock band with a quiet but loyal cult following. He grew up in San Francisco and has lived here for almost ten years, though he still talks with that distinct West Coast accent. He keeps a The guy’s musical range is diverse. He sings, plays guitar, makes beats, and mentors young, budding talents like BP Valenzuela and Oh, Flamingo.
Nick met Kara Chung in Wanderland, and luckily, she is just as talented and manages to catch up with Nick’s energy. She is simultaneously a photographer, a graphic designer, and an illustrator; and she can sing and play the piano. The two formed Birdforms— a stream of consciousness in the form of catchy electronic music, fueled by the freedom and sense of comfort harnessed by two good friends.
They tell us what it’s like to be multitasking musicians—from the discipline of producing good work to dealing with burnout. What is Birdforms about? Nick: It’s about the idea of freedom. Most of the music is about escaping from something that was once holding you back. Kara: Holding you back musically and in real life. All the songs I’ve written are based on a lot of things I went through last year. Birdforms represents our friendship. I share a lot with Nick, and Nick shares a lot of stories with me. We translate that together into music. Tell us a Birdforms lyric that you are personally attached to. Kara: I’d say Windows because I wrote it right after grad and there was a point when there were a lot of uncertainties. There’s a line that goes Writing our maps as we go / where do we run from all of the mazes we chose? I found it really cool because I was able to capture everything I felt in those two lines. Nick: Mine is to your kingdom. That was something pretty cool that Kara wrote. It symbolizes how passionate somebody can be when they want to make a change, or some shit like that. What do you want to achieve both musically and as individuals? Nick: It’s always about letting new ears listen to new music—like birds spreading their wings across other lands in the sky—that was always the goal. Kara: Before Birdforms, I wasn’t really making to a lot of music. I was playing the piano since I was a kid and I’d write my own songs, but I kind of got burned out for a while andI didn’t release anything of my own for three years. I’m really thankful I have Nick as my mentor. Sometimes you need your work through another person’s perspective before you can think hey, it’s actually something good, and it’s actually something that people would appreciate. How do you keep things going when you’re out of focus? Kara: We both give equal importance to this. We always set aside time to practice, no matter how different our schedules are. It’s interesting because my song writing process doesn’t always happen when I think, “Okay I have to write this song.” What I do is that I jot down little thoughts that I have during the day. Sometimes I send them over to Nick, or sometimes we do it together and then we make into a tune. It’s pieces together. Nick: In my other projects, I’m usually the lead person. In this case, I’m toning myself down since it’s completely collaborative. The creative process becomes a little bit more stimulating, enticing whatever word you could come up that shows that it gets the ball rolling a lot more creatively than just having only one input. Does it pressure you as musicians to produce music that people will like? Nick: Whatever you release, it has to be ready. You should never half ass anything. I take a lot of pride in my production. I make sure that the musicians I work with sound good, because they put in the work. You have to put value in the thing that they put out. How do you deal when you criticize each other? Are you honest with each other when working? Kara: Yeah, so honest! Super honest, it’s so funny. [Laughs] Nick: But it works it totally works! Kara: I always tell him what verse I think doesn’t work. And then he’d put beats where there should have been lyrics, and I’d ask him, why’d you cut that line in half? And then he’d place something in the second half where there were supposed to be lyrics, and it would be so much more interesting.
Nick: I think that’s why our music sounds unique. It’s something we both had our own creative input into, and to me it’s simply beautiful music. I’m not ever again telling people to jump the fuck up, or you know, “Destroy this shit!” It’s a great phase that I’m doing right now. It’s actually helping me mature even more. What Kara has done for me is really tell me to get rid of all this shit that really doesn’t need to be there.
Kara: Even though I can come up with something entirely on my own, it’s really interesting to see something that I made get translated into something that’s Nick’s style. I learned from Nick that it is also important to consider how people feel about when they watch you live. Nick really gives importance to how people are going to react during your live sets. He wants to make connections with people.
What advice can you give people who are experiencing burnout because they’re doing a lot of things at the same time, like you two? Kara:
I’d say just keep on working. The only way to get out of your rut is to keep on producing work. Don’t put too much focus on the output, but instead, focus on the process. Focus on your own growth. You don’t necessarily have to be the best. You just have to put out your best.
Nick: Even if I don’t reach a million people listening to my music, but I can reach out to that one person who can make music that can reach a million people, the feeling is enough for me. It’s not necessarily all about myself, but making sure that I can get my message across to somebody else who can make a difference. In that way I did make a difference myself.
Birdforms duo Kara Chung and Nick Lazaro at Z Hostel
Nick’s gear “I love AKG HEADPHONES, especially this model for precise audio mixing and monitoring in the studio.”
“The super clear screen of the SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE EDGE is intense!”
“My weapon for live electronic sets is my AKAI APC 40 CONTROLLER. Digital clip launching and sound manipulation at its best via Ableton Live.”
“These SAUCONY SNEAKERS. Black and orange—colors of the San Francisco Giants.”