Sapphire Empire
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Sapphire Empire

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2013

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Pop Alternative


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Spotlight: Sapphire Empire"

Let’s start with your name, then what do you play?

Gaby, guitar
Anatol, keys
Lucas, bass
Selci, lead vocals
Ben, drums
Emily, trumpet back up vocals
Decarlo, trumpet

Where are you from? And how did you guys meet?

Gaby: Winnipeg MB. Way north and west of the Twin Cites. Manitoba area. We met at jazz school.

Selci: I found myself dancing next to Gaby in the heat of some random show a while back. I asked her what she played and if she wanted to start a band. We got together and jammed cluelessly, then a spark lit and we knew we had to pursue it. We met everyone at jazz school, except for Lucas who has actually been in the band longer than anyone else. We gradually added everyone, one by one. We cycled through a couple drummers to find one who had the style we were looking for. Now we’re all in sync. We’ve been doing this for a little over a year now.


Where did you go to school?

Selci: University of Manitoba

What type of music has inspired you guys?

Decarlo: I feel like we need to come up with a more in depth answer than just Hiatus Kaiyote. Haha

Anatol: A lot of our early stuff was more folk-ish and now we’re more hip hop.

Gaby: I’m influenced by the folk and jazz that I learned in school. I feel like the guitar and voice determines the shell of the tunes. The guitar riffs kind of contribute to the sound of each song.

Selci: I study classical vocals, but I’m inspired by soul music. Electronic, and folk influence also contribute to my sound.

Emily: I feel like we’re a bunch of jazz musicians that are trying really hard not to play jazz. haha

You had two songs released for a while. Now you’ve just released a new self titled EP.

Selci: The EP has the old songs but they’re remastered. Same tunes, they just sound better. It’s a compilation of all the first tunes that Gaby and I wrote together. We are currently working on a full length album this summer. It’s going to be influenced by early hip hop, soul, experimental and jazz fusion.


What do you want the listeners to get out of your new EP? Why?

Selci: I think the new EP has a lot to do with overcoming personal experiences. Overcoming the experience of being in our first band and having an instant connection. The fact that we were learning how to be in a band, makes us feel accomplished because we did it. There are tunes about traveling, connecting with people and nightmares; I feel like that’s what we want people to experience when listening to it.

Emily: Coming in from an outsiders perspective, being that I wasn’t in the band when the EP was being made and being a part of Sapphire Empire for only two weeks, each song is a different story in, and of, itself. Each tune is an immersive experience.

Last question: how many of you have seen Whiplash? haha

Only Anatol, Ben and Emily.

Emily: I feel like it’s almost a perfect representation of jazz school!

Decarlo: I’ve been purposely avoiding it. haha

Selci: The trailer was scary! The kid was bleeding, a-ha. - The Show Last Night


Sapphire Empire is a jazz-based collective fronted by the wonderful singer Selci Wind and guitarist Gaby Cardenas. And I write jazz-based not to sound purposely vague but because their sound is so tough to define, in the best way possible. The benefits of being a 'fusion' band (as they're often called) is that they have the freedom to play around with and be inspired by so many sounds, and the only definitives in their music are the recurring jazzy horns and guitars. They sound like soul, R&B, rap, ska and funk music all wrapped up in a cozy saxophone and trumpet blanket. Their track Allied 1 Mind is a great example of this: it starts off like a romantic slow jam and then breaks into a super catchy ska-influenced beat as if you were listening to The Selecter, with Selci's voice keeping you enthralled throughout the song's ebbs and flows. Go listen to the Sapphire Empire EP if you haven't already, you'll get what I'm talking about.

Ryan, Gaby and Selci discuss art, film, and travel, growing up as an immigrant in Winnipeg, and whether the internet sucks or not in this comprehensive interview. - The Enemy

"The Empire Strikes Back"

The origin story of local jazz fusion group, Sapphire Empire, is so delightfully serendipitous that the main dames behind the project can't help but laugh through the telling of it.

“I used to stare at Selci on the bus on my way to school,” Gabriela Cardenas says of her bandmate, both singers in the University of Manitoba Women's Chorus. “She always looked so weird and interesting. One day we both ended up at a Jupiter Storm show...”

“…And we were dancing,” vocalist Selci pipes in. “And you told me you played guitar and I was like, 'cool, wanna join my band?'”

Despite being absolute strangers before the initial meeting two years ago, they got together to jam.

“It must've gone well, 'cause here we are,” Selci says.

Cardenas and Selci, the latter of which goes by one name, a lá Cher, slowly expanded to include drummer Ben Kidd, bassist Lucas Redekop, pianist Anatol Rennie and saxophonist Eric Bachman.

“It's been hard getting the right people but now, these are the right people,” Cardenas says.

“It's a unit now,” Selci adds.

All members study jazz at the University of Manitoba except for Selci, a classical faculty student, and Redekop, who is fresh out of high school.

“It's cool for me because it's helped bridge the gap onto the jazz side, which in school is really separate,” Selci says. “I had barely dabbled in jazz at all, I studied classical theory my whole life and I've been getting into electronic music and experimental stuff. I feel like I bring an experimental flavour to the band... it's a balance.”

While Cardenas and Selci are most often the ones coming up with lyrics and melodies, it is very much a collaborative effort.

“Jazz, being all improvisation, plays a huge part in our songwriting because that's where [the other members] come from, and I like to jam,” Selci laughs.

Improvisation also finds it's way into Sapphire Empire's live performance, where they keep jam sections open.

“You vibe off the energy that you're getting [from the audience], " Selci says. “And if there's more of a chill vibe, then you're going to keep it pretty chill.”

Sapphire Empire has the unique ability to absorb the traditionalist technique and theory learned in school and transform it into a very contemporary sound.

“You can mix creative process with the technical stuff,” Selci says. “Like trying to write a new section and nothing's coming, you start to think 'this chord progression would make sense here.' And sometimes little things you play just happen to sound great. There's this quote from Debussy: 'there is no theory, you merely have to listen.' And he obviously knows everything about theory.”

Cardenas simplifies their approach even further.

“It's like we go to school for music, but our band is like recess.”

Catch Sapphire Empire when they play Manitoba Music's New Music Wednesdays July 2 at Ozzy's and on July 7 at the Purple Room. - The Uniter


Sapphire Empire - EP


Feeling a bit camera shy


Sapphire Empire is the artistic creation of guitarist Gabriela Cardenas and vocalist Samantha Selci. The two women met while studying music at the University of Manitoba. They have come together to create the band Sapphire Empire. The group draws influences from many different genres, most notably jazz, soul, eletronica, and rock. 

The group has been growing quickly in the past two years. They have toured eastern canada, released an EP, and headlined local festivals in Manitoba. Sapphire Empire's debut album will be released in September of 2016 and will be supported by a cross canada tour. 

Band Members