10 Of The Greatest And Most Famous French Rock Bands

Written by Dan Farrant

Bonjour! France isn’t exactly known for its rock stars, but that is not from a lack of French bands rocking and making great music.

While there aren’t that many French rock bands that have managed to break through globally, especially in the US, many over the decades have gotten the attention of critics and world-famous rock stars.

Whether you’ve never heard a French rock song before or you’re hoping to find your favorite underappreciated famous French Rock Bands on this list, keep reading and join us as we get to know 10 of the greatest and most famous French rock bands of all time.

1. Trust

We’ll start this with Trust, a hard rock band from Paris formed in 1977. Original members included Bernard Bonvoisin, Norbert Krief, Raymond Manna, and Jean-Emile Hanela. Because of their lead singer’s voice, they’ve drawn many comparisons with AC/DC.

The group was known for its socially and politically themed lyrics as well as their hit song “Antisocial,” released in 1988, which Anthrax covered. Their other biggest songs included “Le Mitard” and “Monsieur Comedie.”

Trust had a few lineup changes over its career, and two of their previous drummers, Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain, had drummed with Iron Maiden.

2. Gojira

Our next group, Gojira, is a progressive and technical death rock metal band from Landes, France. The team originally went by the name Godzilla when they formed in 2006 but changed it in 2011.

Gojira consists of brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier, Christian Andreu, and Jean-Michel Labadie. They are one of the few French rock bands that have made it in the US.

In 2021, their album Fortitude was the best-selling album the week of its release. They are the first French band to top the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart and have even gotten Grammy nominations.

So far, Gojira has released seven albums. Their biggest hits include Backbone, Flying Whales, and The Heaviest Matter of the Universe.

3. Noir Désir

From Bordeaux, Noir Désir was an influential French rock, punk rock, and grunge band active from 1989 until 2010. Band members included Bertrand Cantat, Serge Teyssot-Gay, Jean-Paul Roy, and Denis Barthe.

They got their break when Theo Hakola of the American band Passion Fodder heard their demo and recommended them to Barclay Records. They then released six albums over 21 years, with over 300,000 in sales. Their biggest songs were “Le Vent Nous Portera,” “Tostaky,” and “Un Jour En France.”

Noir Désir went on a forced hiatus in 2003 while Cantat served a prison term after being convicted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend. The band did get back together briefly in the late 2000s but broke up due to conflicts within the group.

4. Sloy

Active for only nine years, Sloy was formed in 1991 in Béziers, France, with original members Armand Gonzalez, Cyril Bilbeaud, and Virgine Peitaui. Influenced by bands like the Talking Heads, Devo, and Jesus Lizard, these eclectic rockers liked pushing the boundaries of indie rock.

One of their biggest claims to fame is that their first and second albums, Plug and Planet of Tubes, were produced by the legendary Steve Albini.

Before their disbandment in 2000, Sloy had released a total of three studio albums and two EPs. The band’s biggest songs include “Pop,” “Idolize,” and “First Animal.”

5. No One Is Innocent

If Trust was the French AC/DC, No One Is Innocent could be called the French Rage Against the Machine. A combination of rock, alternative metal, rap metal, and funk metal drove their energetic, often angry social lyrics.

Formed in 1994 in Paris, France, the group has had several lineup changes, but the first members were Jerome-David Suzat, Thierry Molinier, Guy Perrot, Hakim Ouazad, Matthieu Imberty, David Defour, and Spagg.

No One Is Innocent has released five albums, with their second album, Utopia, charting in the top 20. Their single “La Peau” also landed on the French charts at #32. Other hits include “A La Gloire Du Marche,” “Mad King,” and “Le Monde Entier.”

6. Telephone

Our next band, Telephone, was formed in Paris in 1976, and they were together for almost a decade. The members of this famous French rock band were Jean-Louis Aubert, Louis Bertignac, Corine Marienneau, and Richard Kolinks. 

Telephone released its self-titled debut in 1977 and soon skyrocketed to fame. They became popular enough to open for the Rolling Stones in Paris, Quebec, Japan, and the US.

The band released five studio albums in their ten years together, with all of them peaking within the top three on the French charts. Altogether, Telephone sold 10 million albums. Their biggest songs are “Hygiaphone,” “Metro C’est Trop,” and “La Bombe Humaine.”

7. Mars Red Sky

Hailing from Bordeaux and consisting of Julien Pras, Jimmy Kinast, and Mathieu Gazeau, the rock band Mars Red Sky was formed in 2007. Their sound can be classified as stoner, psychedelic, and desert rock.

Mars Red Sky had their debut with a self-titled album four years after their formation. Following this, they released three more albums containing their trademark heavy, psychedelic rock music.

Though their songs did not chart, they’re known for the singles “Strong Reflection,” “Curse,” “Falls,” and “Way to Rome” and often play in European music festivals like Eurockéennes and Levitation.

8. Indochine

In 1981, Frenchmen Nicola Sirkis and Dominique Nicolas created the new wave rock band Indochine. They became extremely popular throughout France, Europe, and Latin America in the 1980s, through the ’90s, and part of the 2000s.

A bit of an overnight success, Indochine was signed to a label after their first onstage appearance. Their debut album, L’Aventurier, was a critical and commercial success, reaching the top 10 of the French charts.

Their decades-long career has resulted in 13 studio albums, with over 10 million sold worldwide. Their best-known songs are “Troisieme Sexe,” “Canary Bay,” and “Trois Nuit Par Semaine.”

9. Phoenix

Formed in Versailles by Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai, Laurent Brancowitz, and Thomas Hedlund in 1995, Phoenix started out practicing in a garage.

After putting together a single on their own label, Ghettoblaster, they got the attention of Source Records in Paris and were soon offered a contract. The guys never looked back as they rose to fame.

Phoenix has released seven albums, selling over 635,000 worldwide. Their indie pop, rock, and new wave hits include “After Midnight,” “Lisztomania,” and “If I Ever Feel Better.” In 2010, the group won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album for their fourth album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

10. Eiffel

Our last band, Eiffel, was formed in 1998. Their vocalist, Romain Humeau, has remained the only consistent member, while the most recent lineup includes Estelle Humeau, Nicolas Bonniere, and Nicolas Courret.

The group was a huge fan of the American band the Pixies, and they took their name from the Pixies’ song, “Alec Eiffel,” about the man who engineered and designed the Eiffel Tower.

However, the Pixies are far from the only influence for this band that leans into crazy sonic landscapes and surreal lyrics. Other cited influences include Sonic Youth, Noir Désir, the Kinks, David Bowie, and Fugazi. 

Eiffel was discovered and signed only a couple of months after forming. Since then, they have released six studio albums, with their biggest hits being “Te Revoir,” “Hype,” and “Le Temps des Cerises.”

Summing Up Our List Of Great Rock Bands From France

The French have given us so much—things like croissants, berets, kisses, and the Statue of Liberty. France is full of gifts, and the world has been sleeping on French rock music for too long.

While there are bands in this list labeled or even touted as “The French version of (fill in the blank of a well-known English-speaking country’s band name),” that’s not exactly fair. French rock bands shouldn’t have to be anyone else for us to listen to them.

Take a listen to some of the tracks these bands have released, and find out what the French have to offer that you might have missed out on. Au revoir!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.