a black and white photo of two guitarists and a bass player onstage. they're all dressed in dark clothes and the guitarist who's singing into a microphone has sunglasses on
Left to right: Manny Herrera, Brian Flores, and Jesse Flores of French Police perform at Museo de la Ciudad in Querétaro, Mexico, on April 1, 2023. Credit: César Balderas @rockrphotomx

Packed into a garage in Garfield Ridge, Manny Herrera and brothers Jesse and Brian Flores practice for an imminent tour of Mexico by their postpunk band French Police. It’s late March, and their first Mexican date is just days away. It’ll be the Mexican American trio’s fourth tour, and their first outside the States. They’re hitting the road with Closed Tear from Los Angeles and Neue Strassen from Mexico City. 

“It feels like more pressure—never did I think I’m going to play in Mexico,” says Brian, 27, the band’s songwriter and vocalist. 

Brian founded French Police in 2019 with Jesse and two other players, neither of whom is in the band now. By the time COVID hit, Jesse had left, and lockdown pushed Brian to dissolve the rest of the group. In April 2021, he started over from scratch, bringing on Herrera as lead guitarist, and seven months later Jesse rejoined his brother. The band posted recordings online and slowly gained traction on social media. Once pandemic restrictions were lifted, they got straight back to gigging. 

The pre-COVID version of French Police had been used to drawing crowds of maybe 20 people, but the band’s first show back—a house show a few blocks from the garage where they practice—was totally packed. The trio remember this as a pivotal moment. Immediately afterward, they’d bang out three more shows, rapidly boosting their exposure until they had hundreds if not thousands of fans. 

French Police took their first tour in July 2022, hitting 11 cities on the west coast and along the route back. On their three tours that year, they played mostly at midsize venues such as 1720 in Los Angeles and Paper Tiger in San Antonio. In November 2022 they recorded a live-in-the-studio video for Chicago-based music-discovery platform Audiotree, which premiered this spring. French Police now have more than 150,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, including 15,000 in Mexico. 

YouTube video
French Police perform in the Audiotree studios in November 2022.

Brian attributes the success of French Police to the changes in their style and sound after their self-titled debut in 2019. “I think the song that defined our sound was ‘Clock Man,’” he says. “Before that, the first album I released, it was totally different.” 

“Clock Man” appears on the band’s second release, the 2019 EP Pedaleo Nocturno (“Nocturnal Pedaling”). It was their first to foreground the dark, chilly, melodic postpunk that defines their style today. 

Before French Police, Brian and Jesse played in the band Karma Wears White Ties, formed in 2012. Herrera was a fan of their poppy mix of indie rock and new wave, which Coog Radio at the University of Houston described in 2015 as “something between the lines of Two Door Cinema Club and Walk the Moon.” KWWT topped out at more than 15,000 Spotify listeners, but in 2018, Brian dismantled the band, having found himself uninspired and bored. Ready to reinvent his sound and look, Brian began making the music that would become French Police.

“We’re all good at what we do,” says Herrera, 25. “And we all kind of get along in the same way.” The trio’s stage presence is rhythmically synchronized, and the crowd mirrors that energy. All three members wear shades and mostly black, and even though Brian hardly ever addresses the audience, it remains completely enthralled.

French Police’s sound encapsulates several flavors of 80s nostalgia, combining dreamwave with Russian postpunk. Jesse, 25, the trio’s bassist, takes credit for introducing Brian to current Russian bands such as the duo Buerak, which Afisha magazine called a key group of the “new Russian wave.” 

“When I ended Karma, I really started going into a darker sound with this one band called Hawaiian Gremlins,” says Brian, referring to a trio from Mexico City. “More darker moody shit.” He’s also a fan of Spanish electro-pop band El Último Vecino.

“[The songs] pull from a lot of different sounds, a lot of different things into one,” Brian says. “Every time we release a new album, it’s kind of slightly different. I think that’s why we have such a broad audience.” 

Part of the band’s reach can be attributed to their Spanglish lyrics. French Police’s latest album, the February 2023 release Bleu, features three Spanish songs: “American Thick,” “Diet Coke,” and “Dónde Está Daniel.” Some of the band’s top-performing tracks on Apple Music are also in Spanish, including “En la Noche,” “Hidalgo,” and “Club de Vampiros.” 

The most recent French Police album, Bleu, came out three months ago.

The band’s Mexican roots made their tour of Mexico even more special. The last time any of them had gone back was more than five years ago, to visit family. “The fans are more passionate,” says Brian. “All the fans knew all the words, and they were just singing over me the whole time. So I didn’t really have to worry about singing.”

French Police played in Mexico City, Querétaro, and Guadalajara. They had the most fun (and the most interactive crowd) in Mexico City, Brian says, and the tour was a success in part because they did it alongside Closed Tear. 

“That’s our boy—known him for like two years already,” Brian explains. “We always love playing with him. It’s kind of just like friends hanging out, and then we just play, you know?”

French Police are planning their first North American tour for this fall. Previously they’ve hit specific regions of the U.S. (the west-coast tour in summer 2022, followed by six east-coast dates that fall and five stops in Texas in the winter), but this will be their first experience heading coast to coast. They’re nervous about taking on larger venues and new cities, but they also feel a lot of pride in the hard work they’ve put in. 

a young man crowd surfs in a knot of dancing people in front of the stage at a small venue, and onstage a three-piece band (two guitars and a bass) performs
The crowd gets revved up at a French Police show in January at the Empty Bottle. Credit: Steven A. Garcia @stillhere.media

Brian quit his job as a screen-printing technician more than a year ago, and he’s made the band his full-time gig. “I think it’s cool to say, ‘This is what I do. I worked hard at it for many years, and then finally I can live off of it.’ Right? That’s the coolest part about it,” he says. “You kind of have to take risks. If you’re gonna move ahead, you can’t care about money too much. You got to just do it.”

French Police’s North American tour will be more than 20 shows. They’ll play Phoenix and Minneapolis for the first time, and they’re excited to revisit Riverside, California, where they remember having a super engaged audience. Their tourmates will be Closed Tear and another band that’s hit the road with them before, Lesser Care from El Paso, Texas. 

Part of the reason French Police stay booked and busy is their management. They signed to Chicago-based firm Cruel Management in August 2021, becoming its first client. Since then, Cruel has hired more employees and taken on more clients, including Jesse’s band Blood Club in March 2022 and North Carolina house producer Hush Hush in October. Jesse says he’s excited about French Police’s potential, and he hopes they keep growing as fast as they have been. 

For Brian, part of the reason he doesn’t say much to the crowds at shows is because he wants to let the songs speak for themselves. “We’re not gonna be up there and talk about my whole life story or anything,” he says. “People are there to see the music.” 

“There are so many songs we want to play, so we want to make sure we spend our time playing,” Jesse adds. “Even cutting two songs, we’re like, ‘Oh shit, which ones?’” 

French Police will also play the second day of this year’s West Fest, which runs July 7 through July 9 on Chicago between Wood and Damen, with music booked by Empty Bottle Presents. As they reach new markets, expand their fan base across borders, and look forward to their biggest tour yet, the band’s goal is to keep creating. 

“I’m not going to stop now, because I didn’t stop back then when nobody listened,” Brian says. “I’m just gonna keep coming out with the best music I can come out with. Just hope that people still fuck with it in five years.”

Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales is a Mexican American independent journalist based in Chicago. Her work covers communities of color with a social justice lens. She is a fact-checker for Truthout and a section editor at South Side Weekly.