On a damp bench and profiled by the overcast light of dusk, Jason Smith stares down the bottom of a Guinness and permits himself the weariest grin in the history of facial expressions.

"Sometimes things just don't work out as easily as other bands," he says, diplomatically tying together the lessons of a long couple of months. If it takes an entire life to record a debut album, there's at least another half-life squeezed in before it ever hits shelves, and that's when the rain comes out. Having been through album release delays and seeing guitarist Erich Jackson hit the road as tour manager for another group, it's difficult to grasp exactly what kind of head space the Country Slashers, Orlando's most riotous punkers, are in lately. Smith, a disarmingly open Clermont native and lead singer, wears everything on his surface. Onstage, he presents his inner combatant as a man-child unleashed, climbing rafters and complaining of "force-feeding poison down his throat."

In person, however, Smith deliberately screws a fresh cigarette between his lips to match each of his new trains of thought, and now, discussing the new album, Love Lost and Found, it's turning into a pack-an-hour kind of day.

"It's pretty straight-up, simple music but I think it's got that feel of the old — little bit of punk, country, rock," says Smith. The Slashers feel that finally getting their sound on wax is a chronicle of two hard-earned years, and despite their reckless abandon in live performance, were willing to scrutinize their work to the last detail when it came time to record.

"We're pretty proud of the way we arranged the songs," says Smith. "Lyrically it's the last two years of my ups and downs. They're love songs, for the most part. And we're closing the chapter with a clean slate." Found can be considered a chronology in the truest form. "Blinded by the Night," the album's opening track, is one of the first the group wrote, and they close with their newest, the title track. An uptempo rockabilly romp, "Love Lost and Found," finds the Slashers sidling ever closer to that Clash influence, and while spontaneity permeates the studio detail — Smith isn't afraid to clear his throat before kicking into the chorus — there is more care put into the overall emotional evocation.

"When I first started out, I was writing in the moment, and I got into a happy situation and it was a lot easier to write clearly looking back on those events, as opposed to trying to write them as they occurred," says Smith. "The songs that were written closer to recording time got a lot less … metaphoric and a little more straight to the point."

"My job was easy," laughs bassist Phil Longo. Found was recorded with producer (and Inkwell member) Travis Adams at Longo's house, and he describes the process as alternately speedy and torturous, spontaneous, arduous and always full of surprises. "It was one of the funnest things we've done as a band. Travis is a vocalist and he spent a lot of time with `Jason` as far as getting his confidence and getting the best out of his vocals. As musicians, we just back it up with color and conviction. Just pound it out."

A people-pleaser, Longo shares Smith's natural approachability, but has been in the business long enough to choose his words carefully. On this summer evening at McRaney's Tavern, just following an afternoon downpour, Longo keeps one eye on the tape recorder as he speaks. "You got a bass player jumping off the cabinet, you forget about the hidden messages," says Longo. "A musician I really respect once said, ‘The record is the menu and the live show is the entree.' The pressure was not there to re-create the live antics. We wanted to get on record those other feelings that are there while we play."

Which isn't to say the one-of-a-kind Slashers experience is missing from Found. On "Red Flag," Jackson's manic finger-picking is preceded by the sound of an ominous fire alarm and the Slashers practically kick into an engraved mosh invitation. The difference on the album, however, is witnessed on the very next song, "Just Get Me Through the Night," a haunting acoustic spoken-word piece, written and performed by Longo himself. "`I` didn't even know that was written until I got in the recording room," remembers Smith. "And that was one of my favorite songs on the record, because it's so new to me, and I think people really enjoy it because it's so new to them, too."

The same can be said about the direction of the Country Slashers as a whole. Though many questions remain unanswered about their future together and the members themselves are hesitant to guess, they know that at the very least the Slashers have an album that they really want people to hear. It may not seem like a lot, but it's more than enough for them, no matter how many dark clouds shroud their path. His cigarette pack now as empty as his beer glass, Smith shrugs. "That's the Slashers, though. Drunken antics, smiles … and chaos."


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