As people, the Country Slashers are so ridiculously nice, their band name seems absurdly ironic. When a man approaches them outside The Social mumbling incoherently, bassist Phil Longo turns his wallet upside down and shakes it until coins scatter across the sidewalk. "I've got cigarettes," guitarist Mark Bonner offers as he reaches into his pocket. A moment later, lead guitarist Cody Ragar is holding up his lighter. The man accepts, twitches and bumbles off. The guys smile and think nothing of it.
What a lovely bunch of fellows, yes? Nonetheless, this warm demeanor is not what you'd expect from a punk band with a reputation for intense and assaultive shows that routinely border on disaster.
Formed in Clermont, the Slashers merge Southern rock swagger to punk's aggression to arrive at a sound that's all explosive energy. While the guys have known each other for about 10 years, they've only been playing together for about the past year and within that time, they've created a sound and, most notably, a performance style that reminds people what they loved about punk and introduces kids to what they've been missing.
Lyrically, they go with what they know. Their songs, predominantly written by singer Jason Smith, are a flurry of tunes about love, relationships and good times with friends. The band's live show is "just about as sexy as punk rock can get," Longo says. He compares it to "a ball that's just about to drop, you think it's going to, you're convinced it's going to, but it doesn't."
To make sure that kids (or, rather, The Kids) can experience the fury, the band plays a lot of all-ages shows. They just played a sandwich shop in Sarasota, and lately the boys have been playing Clermont bowling alleys. "There's so much for people to do," drummer Steve Lightcap says of the unusual venues, adding that "it's a lot easier to enjoy a band in such relaxed atmospheres."
"As opposed to just coming to a club and getting wasted, it's more of a chance to hang out with your friends and listen to music," Bonner adds.
"Not that the drinking part is bad," Smith quickly clarifies.
As much fun as the Country Slashers have had performing, they've come to understand overexposure and are beginning to pull away from playing Orlando so often. Instead, the boys are using their time to tour the state and clean up some songs before entering the studio to finally record. Until those sessions happen, however, each show they play provides a golden opportunity to see the ball remain suspended.