The Horse Flies

The Horse Flies (FRC602)

By Judy Hyman

The Horse Flies came together in 1979 in Ithaca, NY. The initial lineup (Judy Hyman and Mike Scott fiddles; Jeff Claus, guitar; John Hoffmann, banjo; and Molly Stouten, bass), played fiddle tunes and old songs at regional festivals and square dances. By the early 980s they settled into a 4-piece quasi-traditional old-time string band with Judy Hyman on fiddle, Richie Stearns on banjo, Jeff Claus on guitar and banjo uke, and John Hayward on upright bass.

At the time there was an active and influential upstate New York string band community that included such notables as Swamp Root, the Henrie Brothers, the Highwoods String Band, the Correctones, and Bubba George. A part of that lineage, The Horse Flies loved and lived the music, making frequent trips to the south for festivals, parties, and friendship, and performing throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

They also absorbed many musical influences outside the southern fiddle tradition and by the mid-80s had developed an\ identifiable sound strumming banjo-uke, reggae/funk inflected banjo, rhythmic fiddle, rock-solid pulsing acoustic bass, a backbeat emphasis, quirky original compositions, and sometimes shameless use of effects on the banjo and fiddle such as chorus, delay, long reverb, and wah-wah. Over the course of their 25+ year career, the Flies have continued to evolve. In the mid-80s, as an acoustic band beginning to show the signs of departure from their roots, they shared an album on Rounder Records, Chokers and Flies, with the similar-minded Chicken Chokers of Boston. From 1987-1995, as a trad-inflected alternative rock band — with electric violin, bass, and guitars, drumkit and synthesizer — the Flies recorded for Rounder and MCA Records, performing mostly original songs and adding drummer, Taki Masuko, and keyboardist, Peter Dodge.

In 1996 they returned briefly to performing as an acoustic band, making one last tour as the original foursome. In 1997 John Hayward, the Flies beloved and extraordinary bass player, passed away. The Horse Flies will always mourn this loss. In 2004 the Horse Flies regrouped with June Drucker on bass and Rick Hansen on keyboard and accordion; drummer Masuko moved from drum kit to hand percussion.

The Horseflies have released seven albums: “Gravity Dance” (MCA), “Human Fly” (Rounder/MCA), In the Dance Tent (Live and Kicking), Two Traditions (Callin’ the Kettle Black), “Chokers and Flies” (Rounder), “Where the Rivers Flow North” (score for the film of that name, on Alcazar Records), and “A Stranger in the Kingdom” (another film score) and appeared on a number of compilation recordings. Both “Human Fly” and “Gravity Dance” reached the top 40 on the Gavin and CMJ charts. “Gravity Dance” was nominated for a New York Award. The band has been written about in major publications such as Rolling Stone, Musician Magazine, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, New Musical Express (London), Melody Maker (London). Still active in 2008 and now have released their new CD “Until the Ocean.”

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