Austin MN 1985-1994
First band Vile Standards recorded 6-song demo in choir room of local community college on borrowed 4-track reel-to-reel. Played several keg parties and DIY punk shows in Austin and other towns in southern Minnesota. Settled on new name The Draghounds in 1986 and recorded new demo tape with Tom Herbers at Underground Studio in south Minneapolis.
Played new band night at 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis and a few shows opening for Gear Daddies. Self-released a 7" single. Began to play regularly at the Entry, the Uptown and the 400 Bar, played shows with Aztec Camera, Jonathan Richman, Uncle Tupelo, The Pixies, fIREHOSE, Jayhawks, Jawbreaker, Scruffy the Cat, Uncle Tupelo and other notables of the late 80s-early 90s indie club circuit. Longed for new and better personality, randomly changed last name to Fuller. Released Draghounds debut LP. Missing old and worse personality, changed last name back to Nicolai. Toured Midwest-South-East Coast in van and more or less in vain. It was fun. Played clean-up slot at SNL afterparty at Brownies in East Village NYC 1992. Woke up to police flashlights in face in Fort Wayne IN, watched as our host was cuffed and taken away. Our band left him T-shirt, CD, thank you note. Worked as line cook, dishwasher, convenience-store clerk, video-store clerk, janitor in movie theater. Moved to Austin TX 1994 with $200 in cash and a few phone numbers.
21-song cassette- The Draghounds "Mel is A Deadbeat" 1987
7" vinyl "Utopia Man Blues / Never Live Without" 1988 (Dunderpate)
Double 12" vinyl "Angel Boots" 1990 (Crackpot)
CD "Last Stop 'til 9th Street" 1992 (Crackpot)
Toured Midwest in car. Played daytime festival in Souix City, IA in between juggling unicyclist and Babes in Toyland. Became a father. Did voice over for short film by Phillip Harder which appeared on 2000 box-set release A Lifetime of Temporary Relief by the Duluth band Low. Wrote many songs quickly. Learned how to harmonize. Experienced a permanent expansion of horizons by living somewhere other than Minnesota for the first time. Worked as door guy and bartender in rock club. Appeared on Hole in the Wall's "Unplug This" compilation. Played daytime SXSW set at Austin Convention Center in between a Tuvan throat singer and Lisa Loeb. Wrote the song "Catch You Alive" for the Austin band The Damnations, who included their (far superior) version of it on Sire Records debut "Half Mad Moon" the following year.
Song "The Green Lantern Needs Your Vote" on comp CD "Unplug This"
CD "Mike NIcolai" 1997 (Tramp Art Co.)
CD "Balloon Race EP" 1998 (Tramp Art Co.)
Toured coast to coast as opening act for The Gourds. Joined Ramsay Midwood band first on rhythm guitar then on bass, toured Midwest on Hurricane Katrina Benefit Tour with Ramsay and Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson, Ramblin' Jack Elliot in December 2005. and the Southwest and Europe as a resident of "The Spooly Show" along with Ramsay and a revolving lineup including Kip Boardman, Tony Gilkyson, Don Heffington, Randy Weeks, and former Draghounds bandmate Brien Lilja. Toured solo and as a duo with various drummers, doing one-nighters on my own and as support for Vic Chesnutt, Spoon, Drive-by-Truckers, Jeff Tweedy, Neko Case and others. Sang backing vocals on two songs included on Gourds album "Blood of the Ram" 2003. Played bass in the Austin band Corrina Corrina. Released split 7" with Minneapolis folk performer Baby Grant Johnson 2001. Played a few shows in Austin backed by the Austin band Grand Champeen. Became married. Worked as door guy, bartender, line cook and in a coffee shop.
CD "Woody Allen Stunt Footage" 2000 (Garage D'or)
CD "Rooster Nudes" 2003
CD "God Fatigue in the Post Atom Age" 2005
CD "Christmas is For Losers EP" 2006
Ausitn, TX - St. Paul MN - Austin, TX 2011-2020
Formed the group The Bremen Riot with the members of Grand Champeen, played shows in Austin, Kansas City and Minneapolis. Later played multiple shows in Austin TX with backing bands The Sensations and The Stares. Worked variously as house painter, construction lackey, line cook and as house sound engineer at Hole in the Wall. Played several shows with Jimmy Smith of the Gourds after that band's breakup, playing in Austin and touring through the midwest and Texas. Returned to old stomping grounds of St. Paul MN in 2018 for a bit, played some solo shows there and a few backed by the Minneapolis band Rank Strangers, made frequent returns to Texas as well during this time to play shows backed by The Stares (Michael Crow, Steve McCarthy and Hunter Darby).
12" Vinyl "PM Magazine" by The Bremen Riot 2013
CD "Excercises For the Wasted and Down" 2015
12" Vinyl reissue "Rooster Nudes" 2017 (Schematic)
12" Vinyl "A Line Cook's Guide to New Satanic Empires" 2018 (Rock Tumbler)
In October 2019 returned once again to Austin full-time. Resumed doing sound and making music in the clubs for several months until Covid-19 showed up and that was the end of that for a while. As there were no gigs to play or do sound for, created new day job for myself in 2020 by getting a loan and opening Love Wheel Records, which I run with my wife and a couple of part-time employees.
Mike & the Stares morphed into a trio during 2022 and we're no longer doing any stuff from my solo records. It's new material and a somewhat different approach. The new lineup is Travis Garaffa drums, Hunter Darby bass, and me on guitar and vocals. It's called Stayres. We're looking to put out a full-length record sometime in 2023.