Who is Bill Smith?

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It's taken Bill Smith a long time to find himself. He, or literally they, went through many incarnations as they pasted fliers with numerous identities all over town -- Perfectly Frank, Bodacious Tatas, and a band called Earthtone that morphed from form to form before shedding one skin too many and collapsing.

Bill Smith is the latest, and band members say the most comfortable, name taken by a group of musicians searching for its sound, its stage and a career in music.

The name Bill Smith is more a philosophy than a moniker. Bill Smith represents the every man, drummer Eric Schuemann said. "We may all be Bill Smith."

The band's punk rock Zen Buddhism is meant to translate on stage as a seamless performance where the members transcend their personal identities for the creation of one sound.

Earthtone finally fell apart with the loss of percussion player Adam Collins. "Earthtone" was his name and concept. Without Collins, it was time to change.

"So we created a person named Bill Smith," Schuemann said. They want the audience to wonder as they dance, "Who is Bill Smith? Maybe the drummer is Bill Smith. Maybe the keyboard player is Bill Smith. He's whoever you think he is. When you're playing one thing, when you're not just four guys but this organic thing, that's Bill."

The name change and the addition of keyboardist Ryan Chamlin have affected the sound of the band. Earthtone was a pure, percussion-driven jam band.

Bill Smith plays with some of the same wandering style, but it has added hip-hop sounds, unveiled a three-power-chord punk song called "Spikes on your Shoes" and picked up several covers such as the Super Mario Brothers song, the Baby Elephant song and "Black or White," by Michael Jackson.

"(Bill Smith) is kind of a jam band, but we've incorporated more into it," Schuemann said. "We want to add this energy that I haven't seen in music since the '70s -- this crazy, heavy, weird energy."

This weekend's shows at Mahogany Ridge in Steamboat Springs and Art by the Pint in Oak Creek will be only their third and fourth shows as Bill Smith.

The band debuted at The Cantina on Aug. 6 after the Los Lobos free concert. The dance floor was packed, and the band gave a high-energy performance.

"It felt great," Schuemann said. "It's the best show I've ever played and the most confident we've ever been on stage.

"We were laughing and even turning our musical mistakes into something fun. I'm so excited about this band that it's disgusting. I want Bill Smith to be president someday."

The musicians practice every day, with a serious mind for turning their band from a late-night pastime into a full-time job.

Ean Smith played with the Bodacious Tatas (a band that lasted only a couple of weeks), Perfectly Frank and Earthtone and is the bass player for Bill Smith.

"We're all four really dedicated," Smith said. "We want to go on tour and become the biggest band in the world."

Bill Smith, he estimated, practices eight hours a night, six nights a week.

The group finally has saved enough money to buy a van, which they plan to do this week, and start touring.

"This is what we want to do for a living," Smith said. "We all four believe in it. It's hard to find those people to make the sacrifice, but I think we finally found those people."

In Smith's mind, Bill Smith is slowly moving away from the Earthtone sound.

"The music is more raw, more funk, even a little harder," he said. "It's not as transient and spacey.

"The music is tighter, but it's also more relaxed."

The members of Bill Smith are in their early 20s, just finding their musical feet.

Ean Smith used to be a professional skier, but his career ended with a knee injury.

"The day I blew out my knee, I picked up my bass and started playing eight hours a day."

He played in three different bands in Austin, Texas, before moving back to Steamboat.

"As individuals, we all have our personal styles," Schuemann said. "The four of us have a lot of ideas that we can now express through Bill Smith.

"But we are still becoming what we are going to be."

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