Volume Three Interview
Front of House (FOH) Sound Engineer
written by Jon Caruso
Front of House (FOH) Sound Engineer
written by Jon Caruso
As Goose continues to rise in popularity, one aspect has remained constant: their stellar production crew. Sound engineers, like Sam Bardani, play a critical role within every live production by controlling microphones, sound levels and outputs in an effort to produce the best quality sound. As Chris Mitchell, FOH engineer for Umphrey’s McGee (an inspiration of Sam’s) once said, “It is a sound engineer’s goal to become invisible and facilitate an emotional connection between artist and audience, regardless of production level (1).”
In our first interview for Volume Three, The el Goose Times sat down with Sam to talk about his history with Goose, background in audio production and more:
How long have you known the band? When did you get involved with their audio production?
The first Goose show I ever worked was in 2016, I was stage manager and monitor engineer at a small festival in Connecticut. I remember being extremely impressed by their performance that night. Around that time, they were playing local venues and we had mutual friends, so I caught their shows whenever I could. I was the house audio engineer at a local CT venue, Fairfield Theatre Company. I really connected with the guys while handling front of house sound for them, specifically when they opened shows for both The New Mastersounds and The Nth Power. Ben and I immediately hit it off and we would hang out at shows in the Black Rock area of Bridgeport where I lived. Once the band was able to hire a full-time sound guy in October 2019, they brought me on as their sound engineer - the rest is history.
Tell us about your background in audio production – did you have any formal training or are you self-taught? Have you worked with any other artists besides Goose? What other sound engineers have inspired you?
I was exposed to the audio world at a very early age. My dad, Ray Bardani, has been in the music business since the 1970’s, (and is still going strong today!) so, music has always been in my blood. However, the studio world is a different beast that was not not entirely for me. I am really grateful for my exposure to so many amazing musicians over the years, and the wealth of knowledge and experience I obtained through osmosis. Growing up, I was always encouraged to play music - I was also taught to listen to not just the entire song, but the nuances of production. I was primarily influenced by the classic rock records early on, and I think that exposure set the tone for how I approach the live experience.
That said, I didn’t pursue my own career in music until I found inspiration through seeing live shows and wanted to contribute something to the magic that I felt. In 2013 I was lucky enough to get an internship at Fairfield Theatre Company, and truly was “thrown to the fire” headfirst, working production for some world renowned acts. I learned from an amazingly talented group of people, who excel in life, audio, and business. It has been amazing to work with, be inspired by and grow alongside this band/crew/family. My mentors from the theatre, Joe Cuzino & Robert Martinau, taught me nearly everything I know and I am forever grateful for them. Working as a house engineer, it was always amazing to pick up little tips and tricks from the visiting engineers that would pass through town. The article ‘How to Disappear Completely: My Year Without EQ’ by Chris Mitchell was a massive influence on the way I approach mixing. So definitely immense respect for him!
Talk to us about your sound rig and how it has evolved over time, as the band continues to grow.
When I linked up with the band, our input list was approximately 20 channels (individual microphone inputs), a solid microphone package and an in-ear rack with a splitter. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with a group of musicians who are this passionate and appreciative of the importance of production, in addition to the tools it takes to achieve great sound. Also, they all have a wealth of audio knowledge, and a love for gear.
As things began to really ramp up, I was so happy that they trusted my opinion of what Goose needed to obtain the best sound possible. Two years later, we have more than doubled the channel count, upgraded our microphone package, and just recently began touring with the front of house audio console of my dreams. At the end of the day, it all starts with the source, and my job is to just amplify what they create on stage. I tell them all the time that they make me sound good, not the other way around!
Walk us through the process preparing the sound leading up to each Goose show, as well as during the show itself. It seems like a pretty involved process, as there’s quite a few factors that can affect the quality of sound.
Running audio, people see you pushing faders and twisting knobs, but that may be the shortest part of my night. Our crew is filled with passionate, hardworking individuals who will do whatever it takes to crush every detail, much of which involves grueling physical labor. The typical day starts with unloading tens of thousands of pounds of gear from our trailer. Once it’s all positioned on stage, I will move onto placing and patching all the microphones, running cables to each member’s personal mixers, setting up the monitor console and stage box, then setting up the front of house console (all 600+ pounds of it!).
I make sure all 48 inputs are where they need to be and there are no mis-patches, bad cables or phantom buzzes before the band is ready. Come sound check, I let the band jam and dial in the sound. Depending on the system, this process can be a breeze or take some finessing. During the show is where the real fun is had. I add reverb, well timed delay throws, and I’m lucky enough to listen to and watch these amazing musicians feed off of each others’ energy. Being able to highlight the cool little intricacies and musical ideas they bounce off each other in jams is fun. There’s nothing like pumping the subs for the bass drop in Yeti and feeling that power they produce. Once the show is over, it’s time to break it all down, load it up and then on to the next one. It’s exhausting, but rewarding and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
Has the transition to in-ear monitors affected the quality of jamming, from your perspective?
I was lucky enough to inherit the in-ear and multi-tracking rig that Peter and the guys already had in place, I knew they were serious about their sound when I saw it! It’s a dream as an audio engineer to be able to solely focus on the front of house sound and not constantly be tweaking monitors. In-ears not only save the band’s ears from potential hearing loss, they also allow them to be comfortable and fine tune the mix to their liking to suit the vibe each night.
Why does Trevor have a mic? Inquiring minds would like to know :)
I stand by the fact that Trevor’s mic may in fact be the most important channel on stage! If he were to speak up and I missed it, I would never forgive myself. His singular low harmony on “Electric Avenue” was game changing, and I was absolutely floored by his ride sally ride during “Mustang Sally.” Don’t even get me started on his Bingo Tour rendition of “Achy Breaky Heart.” I wept.
Tell us about one of your favorite memories/shows with the band (thus far).
I’m a huge Deadhead at heart, so being able to be a part of Playing in the Sand, especially so early in my tenure with Goose, was absolutely surreal! When it comes to individual shows, it is tough to narrow it down - there’s a reason the Buffalo Nietzsche’s 2019 and Swanzey, New Hampshire 2020 shows were released on vinyl - the vibe at those shows was particularly high. In all honesty, every show contains special moments that inspire me and make me feel so blessed to play a part in this organization. My favorite non-show related memory had to be when we hiked Mount Shasta on an off day on the tour when we were opening for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. That place has some serious magic and being out in such glorious nature with my second family was something I will always cherish!
Thank you for your time and we sincerely appreciate all that you do for Goose!
(1) ‘How to Disappear Completely: My Year Without EQ’ by Chris Mitchell.
Note: We are not affiliated, associated with or in any way officially connected to Goose.
We just love the band and community that much.