Franz Nicolay is that multi-instrumentalist and man-about-town peddling a modern vaudeville with full-throated songs and stories shamelessly strident, stentorian and more than a little sentimental. He’s been a member of cabaret-punk circus World/Inferno Friendship Society, world’s best bar band the Hold Steady, Balkan-jazz carnies Guignol, founded the outlaw orchestra Anti-Social Music, has been an occasional touring member of agit-punks Against Me!; and recorded (complete discography here) or performed (complete list here) with everyone from Leftover Crack to The Dresden Dolls. He was recently named #1 of “Punk’s 10 Best Accordion Players.” He teaches at Bard College.
His first book, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar, will be published by The New Press in August 2016. He has been a contributor to Vice, Blender, Impose, and other magazines; was a regular columnist for the literary journal InDigest, and has released several collections of essays. His first story collection, “Complicated Gardening Techniques,” was published by Julius Singer Press in 2009 (more writing here).
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 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.
Photo by Miles Kerr.