FranzNicolay_CreditSusanLirakisFranz Nicolay is a musician and writer living in New York’s Hudson Valley. In addition to records under his own name, he was a member of cabaret-punk orchestra World/Inferno Friendship Society, “world’s best bar band” the Hold Steady, Balkan-jazz quartet Guignol, co-founded the composer-performer collective Anti-Social Music, was a touring member of agit-punks Against Me!; and recorded (complete discography here) or performed (complete list here) with dozens of other acts. He studied music at New York University and writing at Columbia University (where he was awarded a Felipe P. de Alba Fellowship). He received fellowship residencies in composition at the Rensing Art Center and writing at the Ucross Foundation and the Edward F. Albee Foundation. He has taught at Columbia University and UC-Berkeley, and is currently a faculty member in music and written arts at Bard College. 

His first book, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar (The New Press, 2016), was named a “Season’s Best Travel Book” by The New York Times (read press here). His second book, the novel Someone Should Pay For Your Pain (Gibson House, 2021), was called “a knockout fiction debut” by Buzzfeed; and was named one of Rolling Stone “Best Music Books of 2021″—“finally, the great indie-rock novel…like Dostoyevsky in a DIY punk space.” It’ll be followed in 2023 by Band People, a study of the working and creative lives of musicians, for the American Music Series at University of Texas Press. Franz’s writing has appeared several anthologies and in publications including The New York Times, Slate, The Paris Review Daily, The Kenyon Review Online, Ploughshares, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Threepenny Review, LitHub, Longreads, The Week, VICE, and elsewhere. 

As a solo act, he has appeared on the comedy/variety shows Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Hot Tub (hosted by Kurt Braunholer & Kristen Schaal), The Chris Gethard Show, Tell Your Friends (hosted by Liam McEneaney), Radio Happy Hour, and The Moon Show. As a member of The Hold Steady and Against Me!, he appeared on Showtime’s Billions, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Later…With Jools Holland, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

He has written scores or directed music for several works of dance theater, including choreographers Alison Chase (founding artistic director of Pilobolus and Momix), Ivy Baldwin, Chelsea Bacon, and Diane Carroll, as well as for film and television. 

He was once named #1 of “Punk’s 10 Best Accordion Players.”

Photo by Susan Lirakis.