FranzNicolay_CreditSusanLirakisFranz Nicolay is a musician and writer living in California’s East Bay. 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, and he has taught at Bard College, Columbia University, and UC Berkeley. 

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 (and first novel) Someone Should Pay For Your Pain is forthcoming in spring 2021 on Gibson House Press. It’ll be followed in 2022 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. His story chapbook “Complicated Gardening Techniques” was published by Julius Singer Press in 2009 (more writing here).

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.