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The old-timey tradition is brought to modern standards by the Horseflies. While their sound retains elements of turn-of-the-century string-band music, the Horseflies have taken things much further by adding Caribbean rhythms, avant-garde jazz improvisation, classical minimalism and punk rock dissonance to create what they've dubbed "neo-primitive bug music."
Fiddler Judy Hyman and guitarist John Claus launched the Horseflies shortly after moving from Bloomington, Indiana to Ithaca, New York and running into banjo player Richie Stearns. They had previously met Stearns, who played with the post-punk band Bubba George, three years earlier at a party in Lexington, Virginia. Recruiting bassist John Hayward (then playing with the Correctones), the Horseflies were born. The group later added drummer Bill Usher and keyboardist Brent Barkman.
As the Tompkins County Horseflies, the band made their recording debut by splitting an album, Chokers and Flies, with similar-minded band the Chicken Chokers. Their second album, Human Fly, was originally released on Rounder and reissued by MCA, who also released their third effort, Gravity Dance. Both Human Fly and Gravity Dance reached the Top 40 on the Gavin and CMJ charts. The Horseflies' fourth album, released by Alcazar, featured their soundtrack for the Jay Craven-directed film Where the Rivers Flow North. The Horseflies also supplied the music for the movie A Stranger in the Kingdom. They released In the Dance Tent in 2000, a live recording from the 1996 Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in upstate New York, and dedicated it to Hayward who succumbed to cancer the following year.
With their hard-edged approach to tradition-rooted music, the Horseflies aimed at a rock audience. The group opened ten shows during 10,000 Maniacs' Blind Man's Zoo tour, while their song "I Live Where It's Gray," from Human Fly, was used by Rock the Vote in a series of specials about adolescent health issues that aired on MTV in 1995.
The Horseflies have recently collaborated with the Second Hand Dance Company and the Rhythm in Shoes Dance Company.