The Horse Flies have just released their eighth album, Until the Ocean. Mixed by Kevin Doyle (Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor, Ron Sexsmith) and mastered by Greg Calbi (Coldplay, Lucinda Williams, Iron and Wine, Band of Horses, David Byrne), it's been receiving lots of positive attention in the U.S. and around the globe.
Influential radio station KCRW in Los Angeles has just featured the album as a top new release, an honor given recently to such artists as: Sigur Ros, Neko Case, Jamie Lidell, Damien Rice, Fleet Foxes, Aimee Mann, I See Hawks in LA, and The Kills.
One of the earliest bands to bring truly inventive ideas and energy to traditional American fiddle music, The Horse Flies have created a unique sound that remains fresh, powerful and captivating. Artful original songs, a wild groove-oriented approach to fiddle music, esteemed instrumental skills, and emotive singing come together as old-time fiddle music meets alternative rock, minimalsim, modern songwriting and world percussion.
Previous albums Gravity Dance (MCA) and Human Fly (Rounder/MCA), both reached the top 40 on the Gavin and CMJ charts.
The Horse Flies are Judy Hyman (violin, vocals); Jeff Claus (guitar, banjo uke, vocals); Rich Stearns (banjo, vocals); Taki Masuko (percussion); Jay Olsa (bass) and Rick Hansen (accordion, organ).
The Flies have performed throughout the US, Canada, and Europe at major venues such as the Central Park Summerstage (New York, NY), WOMAD (Toronto, Canada), Big Beat Festival (Vienna, Austria), Vancouver Folk Festival (Vancouver, Canada), Birmingham City Stages (Birmingham, AL), Independence Days (Berlin, Germany), Philadelphia Folk Festival (Philadelphia, PA), Tonder Festival (Denmark), and the Telluride Festival (Telluride, CO). Television and radio appearances have included MTV News, MTV’s Week in Rock, A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, The Entertainers, and many more.
During the summers of 2000 and 2004, Flies Judy Hyman and Richie Stearns toured as part of pop singer Natalie Merchant’s band and played on her album, The House Carpenters' Daughter, which documents those tours. The album's lead cut, Sally Ann, is a song by the Flies’ Jeff Claus.
Reviewers have said:
“A band that's earned a buzz . . . The Horse Flies churn out swirling, addictive songs, blending tradition with invention.”
“Music of astonishing centrifugal force . . . breathtakingly complex rhythms . . . unexpectedly rich textures . . . stunningly modern . . . gravity and grace . . . their ancient, yet modern sound and their easy, seemingly limitless energy make The Horse Flies special.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
The band takes its instrumentation from old-time mountain string bands, but adds synthesizers, third world percussion and a Lou Reed attitude. These unlikely ingredients coalesce into a whole that not only has a refreshing lack of precedent but also makes a strong musical/emotional statement.
—The Washington Post
If you like Camper Van Beethoven, Violent Femmes, David Lindley, Jane Siberry, Cowboy Junkies and other new wave folkniks, you're primed for the Horse Flies. Influenced by everything from Balinese dance music to modern minimalists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the Horse Flies call their spooky sound "neoprimitive bug music." I call it weird, wicked, wild and wonderful.
—Philadelphia Daily News
… a melange of rock, folk, and minimalism, all held together by Judy Hyman's haunting violin and a glove tight rhythm section. This is music that challenges the brain without sacrificing the groove.
The Flies are very good players, too, dedicated to a punchy, coherent band groove … Stearns and Claus play their guitars like percussionists, jabbing rather than massaging the melodies. ... Even when aiming for laughs, The Horse Flies rub your nose in somebody else's weirdness -- and they do it great. Are we having fun yet?
The Horse Flies appeal to both the head and the feet.
—The Boston Globe
... demented, post-modern mountain music ...
Lately, I've started to think that working fusions bring a sense of place to the information landscape -- a fictitious place, outside geography, but one that's convincingly imagined. One way to get there is to head for music borderlines, discovering where far-flung styles overlap as pure sheer sound. ...The Horse Flies, a band from Ithaca, NY, decided that old-time string band music, with its one-chord, modal drones and busy fiddling, has something in common with the intricate minimal compositions, themselves African, Asian, American fusions, of Steve Reich -- an unlikely combination that pays off ...The Horse Flies have figured out how to hold a hoedown in a physics lab.
—New York Times
Brilliantly peculiar ... new music with gnarled and twisted roots.
—The Boston Herald
The Horse Flies live up to the expectations of their song titles, playing off-kilter pop-tunes. Like an East Coast Camper Van Beethoven, they combine an art-rock intellect with compelling lyrics and bewitching musicianship for a sound that is both surreal and sublime.
—College Music Journal
The Horse Flies win this season's award for "Best Set by a Band We've Never Heard Of."
—Boston Globe, in a review of a 10,000 Maniacs concert which the Flies opened
The new wave of interest in traditional styles has brought some unexpected hybrids from the punk folk of the Pogues to the New Age folk of Enya, but last weekend at the Pied Bull in Islington could be found the quirkiest folk fusion artists of all, the Horse Flies. ... They gave a bizarre, entertaining performance. ... On "Human Fly" they mixed the rattling repetition of Claus' frantic strummed rhythm work with Judy Hyman's rousing fiddle work, blending folk styles with the repetition of modern systems music. On their best and most startling song, "I Live Where It's Gray," they mixed Claus' deadpan vocals with furious backing, to chilling effect. Any band that can switch from a song like this to the lyrical "Rub Alcohol Blues" and play for so long with such enthusiasm deserves more than a cult following.
—The Guardian, London
They've moved not into the hey-nonny nowhere of punk folk, but a whole new terrain whose borders might meet with, say, Talking Heads. "Human Fly," one of their best known songs is a cover of that one by the Cramps, but reworked beyond belief. It's a bustling web of Philip Glass rhythms and keening fiddle, with Stearns' high poignant vocal trapped in its centre, as startling and as useful a reinventing as The Residents doing "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." The Flies alternate uncomplicated body music with songs like the hit-potential cerebral funk of "I Live Where It's Gray." There's one about throwing acid on dogs, this delivered in Claus' startled, Byrne-ish yelp; and a goose bump version of the nursery rhyme, "Hush Little Baby," coming on like a child molester trying to quiet his prey. ... a world without the Horse Flies' wholly unique music would be a much, much poorer place.
—Melody Maker, London
The Horse Flies are an art rock outfit in the tradition of Talking Heads--they combine wild, infectious rhythms with lyrics you can actually listen to. Just the thing for rockthinkers who love to dance.
—The Examiner, Toronto
The Horse Flies, an electro-acoustic sextet, delivered quirky gems buffed with a cheeky agit-pop wit. With tough drum rhythms balancing the hustle of a fiddle, the 'flies have that rare ability to sound traditional and modern at once.
The best new American band I've heard in a long time. ... They don't sound like anyone I've heard and comparisons don't do them justice (sort of like Talking Heads but different). Maybe that's why their sincerity shines through.
—The Barnard Bulletin, student newspaper at Columbia University, New York City
At the onset of a decade that promises much strangeness, Horse Flies are one of the stranger outfits to hit the road. ... I'm happy to report that the live version of this sextet is very muscular. The Horse Flies chip from nearly every popular music form, starting with a clipped, hyper kinetic hoedown soundtrack and scurrying through various corners of world music. Onstage they remind of no one so much as the Talking Heads circa "Stop Making Sense."
—Boston Rock, "Live Reviews"
Sometimes they sound like the Rolling Stones in 1968, when they were just discovering folk and country blues. Other times, they're like punk musicians who happen to know how to play their instruments. What a combination. ... Highly recommended to anyone with contemporary taste and a warped sense of humor.
The Horse Flies swing like mad.
A futuristic amalgam that seems to cover the next century as well as the last ... their music hits you like a boomerang from day after tomorrow. ... Hearing this you instinctively feel you are hearing the pop music of 1998, maybe 2008. This is that far ahead of its time and feels that overwhelmingly right. Buckle your seat belt but don't miss the ride. You gotta hear this! And it gets my highest possible recommendation. Say, album of the year, for starters.
—Record Roundup, Boston
The Horse Flies forge swords from ploughshares. What is traditional, they shape into something sharp and interesting by applying a little punkish heat, and some icy art-rock inspiration, sounds like a jungle warning and reads like a voodoo incantation. The Horse Flies delight by treating tradition to an acid-bath of modern influences.
—Folk Roots, London
The Horse Flies make noises and hypnotic mazes of sound that almost form a brand new musical entity. Riveting.
—Time Out, London