Thrilled to say that my third book, Band People: Life and Work in Popular Music, is coming Sept. 10 on University of Texas Press’ American Music Series (which you may know from books like Hanif Abdurraqib’s Go Ahead In The Rain and Alex Pappademas’ Quantum Criminals). It’s about creative, personal, and political dynamics in bands, and draws on interviews with the likes of Nels Cline, Janet Weiss, Josh Freese, and many many others. Pre-orders are available wherever you buy books.

“What makes Band People so unlike most books about popular music is that it’s actually about music, and not really anything else. Instead of projecting a meaning onto songs, it explains the craft of song creation; instead of lionizing the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, it describes how a life in rock ‘n’ roll can be realistically achieved. It’s the difference between learning about a war from a general and learning about a war from a soldier.” —Chuck Klosterman, author of Killing Yourself To Live and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

“Most books about musicians focus on the superstars that everybody knows. Franz Nicolay’s writing is so valuable because he cares about the other 99.9 percent of performers—the sidemen, the session musicians, the road dogs who make their living in the shadows. In Band People, Nicolay shows just how fascinating—and difficult, and rewarding, and important—the lives of these people can be.” —Steven Hyden, author of Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me and Twilight of the Gods

“Franz Nicolay brings together musician interviews, pop-music sociology studies, and social-psychology research to demystify the world of the workaday band member. Partly an oral history of the post-DIY musical present, partly a how-to manual for getting along with your bandmates and getting paid, Band People offers a thorough crash course in what it means to be a working musician in the pop and rock scenes.” —Sara Marcus, University of Notre Dame, author of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

“Festival catering is where working musicians knock out our water cooler talk. What drummer’s a dream on tour? What singer pays dirt? What bassist should never, ever drive? With Band People, Franz Nicolay has assembled festival catering’s fantasy roster, a wrecking crew of career players in astute conversation with one another on business and relationships and how those collide in music work. A fascinating guide to the labor and love of playing in a band, with invaluable insights for newbies and lifers alike.” —Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz and Sad13), author of Cry Perfume

“[Nicolay’s] original research…makes for fun reading…and goes deep on a neglected population of musicians…A lively…peek at the artistry at the edge of the stage.” —Kirkus

“Perceptive…shed[s] fascinating light on the complications of dedicating one’s life to another’s music…[T]hese profiles succeed in complicating the ‘lone genius’ narrative of artistic creation and raising provocative questions about how society values the production of music. It’s a captivating look at what it means to occupy the complicated space ‘between a career and a calling.’”—Publishers Weekly

6/10/24

Here are two new songs, “Winners Inn” and “Unusual Weathervanes.” They’re a bit of a departure for me in that all of the music was written and performed by my friend and neighbor Daniel D’Oca (once a touring guitarist for the Fiery Furnaces, among many other accomplishments). I wrote and sang the lyrics.

3/12/24

On March 23, I’ll be appearing at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh as part of the U. of Pittsburgh Music Dept.’s Music on the Edge series. I’ll be singing Rzewski, along with an arrangement of my song “Wandering Star,” with Talujon. EDIT: Listen to “Wandering Star” here!

2/8/24

Delighted to hear that Someone Should Pay For Your Pain is on the syllabus for what looks like a great class called “Rock Is Lit,” on rock novels, at East Tennesse State University.

I did score and sound design for this new short film from choreographer Alison Chase and director Derek Dudek.

12/31/23

Every year I like to compile an Audio Yearbook of music that, for whatever reason, stuck in my ear. They’re getting bigger as music gets easier to check out, for good or ill; and I get that it’s a bit anachronistic to share a zip file of mp3s, but of course not everything is on streaming. (Here is a Spotify playlist, missing that handful of tracks.) Best on shuffle!

I did a long interview with the Keyboard Chronicles podcast; so cool to have one for/about keyboard players. 

12/11/23

I played a bunch of accordion on Jeff Rosenstock’s score for the “Craig of the Creek” movie Craig Before The Creek, which is out today on streaming services!

I realized I haven’t properly mentioned a couple other excellent records I played on which came out this year: Worriers Trust Your Gut, Sincere Engineer Cheap Grills, and Billy Liar Crisis Actor—check ’em out.

2/14/23

PLEASE NOTE: 3/19 SHOW IS MOVED TO DUNDEE; 3/24 TO BRISTOL; and 3/20 ADDED IN NEWCASTLE

Very excited to be back in the UK in March, with special guest the legendary Aaron Cometbus. Aaron is one of the most quietly influential writers of his generation, and doesn’t often do this sort of thing, so I think these shows will be really unique and memorable.

March 13 @ Cobblestones, Bridgewater

March 14 @ The Cavern, Exeter

March 15 @ The Pump, Trowbridge

March 16 @ Redrum, Stafford

March 17 @ Bar 4, Bolton

March 18 @ Mono, Glasgow (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 19 @ Rad Apples, Dundee (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 20 @ Little Buildings, Newcastle (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 21 @ Adelphi, Hull (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 22 @ The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 23 @ Le Pub, Newport (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 24 @ Future Doughnuts, Bristol (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 25 @ Signature Brew E8, London (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

11/1/22

Very pleased to say that my new record NEW RIVER is OUT NOW on the great Don Giovanni Records November 11 (order digital or vinyl).

The album was recorded in spring 2021 at Atomic Garden in Oakland with drummer Ara Babajian (the Slackers) and bassist Frank Piegaro (Worriers); with generous help from friends including Jeff Rosenstock and Mike Huguenor (Death Rosenstock), Deanna Belos (Sincere Engineer), Lauren Denitzio (Worriers), Peter Hess (Philip Glass Ensemble), Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady), and Todd Beene (Lucero, Chuck Ragan).

The album artwork was by David Espinoza Alvarez, and the video for “New River” was directed by Diana Morales, both of Mexico.

2/8/22

The ninth Hold Steady album, The Price of Progress, will be out March 31, as part of our 20th anniversary year. You can pre-order and listen to the first two singles here.

12/31/22

Every year I like to compile an Audio Yearbook of music that, for whatever reason, stuck in my ear. It feels anachronistic to share a folder of mp3s in 2022, but, after all, neither all the people nor all these songs are on streaming. This fifteenth edition is the biggest one yet—in no particular order, best on shuffle…

My new album New River is out in the world, and I’ve done some press. I spoke to Twangville and Northern Transmissions, and the podcasts Left Of The Dial (thanks Andrea for including it on her faves of the year) and In Defense Of Ska. Shows upcoming in Catskill, Philly, Boston, and Manchester.

Maria and I will be doing some events sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities in Tulsa Jan. 18-22, including “Music From Free Ukraine: A Musical Salon” on Jan. 20, moderated by the acclaimed poet and translator Boris Dralyuk.

10/6/22

I contributed to the anthology Punks Listen—now available for pre-order—in which musicians write about a record that was significant to them. It was organized by the Dublin-based Hope Collective as a Ukraine benefit, and includes writing by Henry Rollins, Nels Cline, Dick Lucas, Amanda Palmer, and many many others. If I recall correctly I wrote a piece of short fiction “about” Thelonius Monk.

The World/Inferno legacy project and Jack Terricloth Foundation is putting on a whole weekend of Hallowmas activities; one of them is a Mischief Night Sinfonietta concert of chamber orchestra arrangements of World/Inferno music at the Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan on Sunday, October 30—I’ve written a couple of the arrangements.

9/7/22

Very pleased to say I’ll be performing as vocalist for Rzewski’s “Coming Together” and “Attica” with the Talujon percussion ensemble Sept. 30 at the DiMenna Center’s Cary Hall; along with a new setting of Ilya Kaminsky’s “We Lived Happily During The War” and other works.

5/12/22

In the summer of 2020, I played keyboards and harmonica on the “exquisite corpse”-style recording project—spearheaded by Milemarker’s Dave Laney and including Peter Hess, Rachel Hirsh (I Was Totally Destroying It), H.C. McEntire (Mount Moriah), and John Crouch (Auxes)—now out on File 13 Records as the Crushed Ice album Nights & Weekends.

4/14/22

On Saturday, April 16, Maria Sonevytsky and I will be participating in New York Theatre Artists For Ukraine, a 12-hour online marathon of performance, readings, and conversations with 24 New York arts institutions, including PEN America, HERE Arts Center, BAM, St. Ann’s, The Public Theatre, La Mama, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and more; with appearances by Robert Wilson, Tony Kushner, Bill T. Jones, and many others. The National Public Broadcasting Station of Ukraine will live-streaming the event in Ukraine.​ Maria & I will be performing as part of the PS21 cohort between noon and 12:30 EST.

3/23/22

Band Together is a new benefit comp for the charity Razom for Ukraine, featuring new Ted Leo, great Ukrainian bands, and a previously-unreleased World/Inferno recording from 2005—live in the Fearless Music studios at the peak of our powers.

3/7/22

I wrote about the Ukrainian music scene in wartime for SPIN.

The American Musicological Society’s Musicology Now blog is publishing a rolling “Collaborative Portrait Gallery” of music from Ukraine, and I contributed an entry.

I had a fun talk with musicologist Lily Hirsch about her book “Weird Al, Seriously” for New Books Network (wherever you get podcasts).

12/30/21

Here’s the fourteenth edition of my Audio Yearbook, a running collection I keep of music—new, new-to-me, or rediscovered—that stuck in my ear this year. This is the biggest one I’ve ever done! What can I say, I listened to a lot of music this year. It felt really good. In no particular order, best on shuffle.

11/30/21

I wrote about Jack for the new Threepenny Review.

My conversation with novelist Adam Wilson is online here.

10/22/21

I spoke to The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh about his new book Major Labels, for the New Books Network podcast.

10/4/21

Pitchfork has named The Hold Steady one of the “200 Most Important Artists” of their 25-year history.

9/10/21

The new Sincere Engineer record Bless My Psyche is out today. I got to play a lot of keys on this, which was a real highlight of the pandemic summer last year. Great songs. (Here is Deanna being nice back.)

8/8/21

I’m on the new episode of the Slate podcast Decoder Ring, talking to Willa Paskin about whatever happened to “selling out” (drawing on this article I wrote for them in 2017 about the development of the phrase in its pejorative sense in this country, and how it came to be applied to musicians).

7/27/21

I spoke to GQ about whether I think a reappraisal of Sublime is in order (spoiler: I do not).

6/15/21

Ray Padgett asked if I’d write a guest post about seeing Bob Dylan live for his newsletter.

6/1/21

Billboard decided that “Stuck Between Stations” had one of the best bridges of the 21st century (#27, to be exact).

I was part of a UCSB roundtable on “Sustaining Music and Musicians in the Age of Streaming” with Jean Cook, Eamon Fogarty, Regan Sommer McCoy, and Greg Saunier, archived here.

5/4/21

I’m in a new episode of the syndicated travel show Raw Travel; also featuring Anti-Flag and DakhaBrakha. Here’s the trailer; to see the full episode check your local listings.

Sincere Engineer’s new record Bless My Psyche will be out on Hopeless Records in September. I played a bunch of keyboards on it and they’ve released several songs already; check them out and pre-order here.

Jocelyn Mackenzie’s PUSH is out now on Righteous Babe; I wrote some string arrangements and sang on one tune.

I guested on Jeff Rosenstock’s surprise release SKA DREAM; got to share a track with the great Angelo Moore!

4/10/21

I had a great chat with Willy Vlautin for the launch of his new novel, The Night Always Comes, hosted by POWERHOUSE Arena.

2/19/21

The new Hold Steady record, Open Door Policy, is out now. It debuted at #6 on Billboard’s album charts (#2 rock record behind Foo Fighters), our first top ten. We played “Family Farm” on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and a short set on NPR Live.

10/17/20

I wrote about Alex Ross’s Wagnerism for Slate.

8/31/20

Good morning! My second book and first novel SOMEONE SHOULD PAY FOR YOUR PAIN is coming in spring 2021 on Gibson House Press. PRE-ORDERS HERE or wherever you buy your books.

Here is some other press. I also spoke to the Dying Scene, Punknews, Spectrum Culture, and New Books Network podcasts; as well as WGXC radio. I had a lively talk with Dan Ozzi on his REPLY ALT podcast

It’ll be followed in 2022 by BAND PEOPLE, a non-fiction study of the working and creative lives of musicians, on the American Music series at University of Texas Press. More info soon…

6/26/20

I wrote about Randy Newman for Vol. 4 of Hyped On Melancholy (“smart words about sad songs”).

6/10/20

I wrote about Glenn Gould’s radio documentaries and the fantasy of solitude for Moistworks.

OLDER NEWS…