Måneskin: “We worked our asses off to get here, but we also know this isn’t something that happens every day”

Post-Eurovision, Måneskin have become one of the world’s biggest bands. Now preparing to headline The O2, we caught up with the Italian rock’n’rollers to see just how wild their lives are getting, and why none of them seem to like wearing clothes…

Måneskin: “We worked our asses off to get here, but we also know this isn’t something that happens every day”
Mischa Pearlman
Fabio Germinario

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Grant Park in Chicago, the site of Lollapalooza. The sun is shining, the sky is straight out of an oil painting – a deep, rich blue decorated with perfectly-formed clouds – and the air is warm. For four days, 100,000 people make their way into the designated section of the 319-acre park to attend the festival originally started by Perry Farrell in 1991 as a travelling farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction. Now a staple of Chicago life that sees the city’s downtown area teeming with people, through its gates and on the surrounding streets there are no thoughts of the injustice and cruelty that permeate the news cycles. Judging by the lack of masks, there’s also very little indication that COVID – which saw the festival exist only in digital form in 2020 and is one the rise once again – ever existed. It’s a paradise of late-capitalist dystopia, where soda-sized cans of beer cost $10 and a four-day wristband will set you back $375 for General Admission, rising to $4,200 for a ‘Platinum’ edition.

You could understand, then, why one Måneskin fan is at the front of the crowd crying. In fact, she’s not just crying, but bawling her eyes out uncontrollably as the Italian band appear high up the main stage some four hours before the final day’s headline act, Green Day, offer up a spellbinding performance that firmly cements their legendary status. These aren’t sad tears. Quite the opposite. They’re an expression of joy. Her irrepressible emotions – her paroxysms of joy enlarged on the huge screens either side of the stage – are more than enough for vocalist Damiano David to notice her.

“That’s how you fucking behave at a gig!” the 23-year-old frontman bellows, both to the fan in question and the thousands of other people watching her cry. “You’re a fucking pro fan, okay? I fucking love you!” he continues. This only causes her to convulse even more uncontrollably than she already was.

“Take example,” he says, “everybody starts crying right now, okay?” It’s one of the few times his English isn’t entirely perfect, but it doesn’t matter. As the fan essentially folds in half over the barrier, you know it’s a moment she’s going to remember for the rest of her life.

It’s also an indication of the power that the quartet – Damiano, bassist Victoria De Angelis, guitarist Thomas Raggi and drummer Ethan Torchio – currently wield. After they play their hour-long set, Perry Farrell’s Porno For Pyros are the next band on the main stage. And while, admittedly, they never had the same draw as Perry’s main outfit Jane’s Addiction, there are significantly fewer people watching them than were watching Måneskin. Not half bad for a band who only formed in 2016 and whose lyrics are often in Italian.

That doesn’t seem to matter, though. Whether Måneskin are strutting their stuff – and boy, do they strut – in their own language, like set opener Zitti E Buoni (the song with which the four-piece won the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest), or in English as they do on the decadent, hedonistic Supermodel, the crowd sing every single word back. Whether they understand them or not. It’s an incredibly rare sight to behold – especially in America – but the international fervour for the Italians doesn’t end there. On May 8, 2023, nine months on from Lollapalooza, the four-piece will headline London’s 20,000-capacity The O2 – a far cry from when they first played the capital in 2019. Then, it was at The Dome, the 500-capacity venue in London’s Tufnell Park.

The band don’t need to be made aware of how unusually and insanely fast that trajectory is.

“It’s been crazy to see how we all of a sudden started planting seeds all around Europe,” says Damiano in the band’s dressing room a couple of hours before their set, “and then also outside of Europe. It’s been even crazier to see how fast and how far things have grown. Like, one year ago, we went around Europe playing for like 500 or 1,000 or 2,000 people, when we were lucky, but now we see that we are selling like 10,000 tickets in South America. It’s crazy! We’re reaching places where we would never imagine to be.”

It goes without saying that a great deal of that is down to Måneskin’s Eurovision victory. While often derided as a kitschy competition that promotes terrible pop music (and rightly so), Måneskin decided that the pros of taking part in the contest would likely outweigh the cons. They were absolutely right.

“We went there knowing it was not our natural environment,” admits Damiano, “but we just said, ‘It’s a huge stage!’ When we see a stage, we just want to play there. We don’t care if it’s cheesy or ‘not rock’n’roll’. We’ll make it rock’n’roll! Which is what I think we did at Eurovision. We didn’t want any dancers or stuff onstage – it was just us, a stand for the drums, and pyro.”

Making it rock’n’roll was exactly what they did – not just with their winning performance of Zitti E Buoni, but also their alleged antics at their table while waiting for the results. On live television, in front of approximately 183 million people, it looked very much as if the singer did – or was about to do – a line of cocaine. Whether he did or not is another thing, but the fuss and furore it all caused got absolutely everybody talking about Måneskin, at least. It’s something they actually enjoy playing with, and they like to provoke people while they do so.

“We’re good at not actually caring about what people say, because we know the truth,” says Damiano, “and we think the truth and the authentic things are always going to come out one way or another. So when we were accused of snorting coke at Eurovision, we didn’t get pissed. We knew the truth and were like, ‘Okay, this is fun! I love it!’ I was super hyped, and [it was funny to think] ‘a lot of people hate me!’ But it’s easy to shut out things if you know the truth and if they’re not true.” There’s a beat. “The problem is when they catch you doing true shit!”

The artist village at Lollapalooza is a fenced-off complex just behind the festival’s main stage. There are fashion and food vendors offering free wares to those with access, as well as a bar that serves free drinks, although they don’t start giving alcohol out until 3pm. But there are ping-pong and picnic tables, and a host of other luxuries afforded to those who are playing. Except for Green Day, who have their own fenced-off complex within the fenced-off complex, the green rooms for all the bands playing are set up in a line next to each other, a rock’n’roll village.

Inside Måneskin’s dressing room, Damiano is finishing off a small joint, and he’ll later announce to the crowd how great it is that weed is legal in Chicago. The band are also lacking in clothes, their stage outfits only half on at this juncture. Lounging around in various states of undress, there has rarely been a better example of a good looking or more stylish rock’n’roll band. It’s no wonder they were chosen to star in a Gucci advertising campaign last year.

It’s another vivid example of their rapid ascent from playing shows as teenagers and busking on the streets of Rome to being in the throes of world domination. It would be easy for them to let their success derail them, but they show no signs of that actually happening. In fact, they’re adjusting to it all very well – probably because, having won a number of awards at home a few years ago, the wheels were in motion long before Eurovision blasted them into the stratosphere.

“I think we got used to it in a way in Italy when we were growing up there,” says Vic, “so we already knew how to handle it and how to not let it get in our heads. So now we’re just happy and enjoying every piece of it.”

As they should be. But it’s also worth noting that this is something they’ve been actively working for and towards since they formed the band as teenagers in school. Because even at a young age, as Victoria explains, Måneskin had their eyes on the big time. Ask them if back then their aspirations would have included world domination and they probably – like most bands – would have said yes. The difference now is that they can answer yes and have that actually be a tangible possibility.

“Even when we started the band when we were very young, we took it seriously,” she says. “It’s not like we were saying, ‘We want to play The O2!’” – and here she smiles a devilish grin to illustrate her delight that that’s actually going to happen – “but we wanted to make a real project, record an album in the studio, play a lot of gigs. Most of the people our age weren’t even into music, or if they were, it was just for fun to go to a rehearsal room and play some covers. But we were like, ‘We need to do a photoshoot and make a video clip.’ Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?! You’re 15-year-old children!’ But we really wanted to make this a longtime project.”

With that comes a level-headedness and intelligence that belies their image and their sound. One of the most touted facts bandied around about Måneskin is that people are streaming the band’s songs in their billions. In 2021, analytics company Viberate totted up Spotify, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram numbers to reveal that the Italians made the biggest impact in terms of views, streams and likes for that year. On Spotify, they were streamed two billion times in 2021, while they garnered 213 million views on YouTube. Those insane Spotify statistics mean they were streamed more than Metallica – who, by comparison, only managed a paltry 1.3 billion streams – and also gave Queen a run for their money.

Impressive as this is – and it’s incredibly impressive – Måneskin are just taking those facts and figures in their stride. Unlike, it must be said, a lot of people who have been getting upset that these young whippersnappers are out-streaming their iconic heroes, or the media outlets that have been sensationalising those figures.

“I think the world has become a bunch of clickbait shit,” says Damiano. “Of course the viewer is going to get super upset when you hear, ‘Måneskin are more streamed than Queen.’ But I’m a thinking person, so I’m like, ‘Of course.’ They were not a Spotify-time band. They’ve sold millions more albums than we can ever hope to sell, because it worked in another way. It wasn’t about streams, it was about actual selling. It’s a different thing, but I think it’s just the journalists trying to be smart and cause drama and to get people to split up. But it’s just shit. We know we’re not Queen and we don’t even aim to be Queen. They already existed and we don’t want to copy anybody. Otherwise, I’d be singing in a high-pitched voice and wearing all white.”

With great power comes great responsibility, so the old adage goes. That’s something Måneskin are discovering more and more as their profile continues to rise exponentially. Needless to say, glam rock isn’t, and hasn’t ever been, a particularly political genre. The whole point of it is over-the-top posturing and dramatics – it’s meant to be fun and raucous.

In Måneskin’s case, its also awash with a heavy sexuality – especially in their performance of Touch Me, a steamy, sleazy song about physical attraction that today sees Damiano, by this point topless, get into the crowd and charm them with his incredible charisma and his sweaty, naked torso. But then things take a turn for the more serious. That song morphs into an off-kilter cover of The Who’s My Generation, before the band announce their solidarity with Ukraine and launch into a vicious diatribe about Vladimir Putin by way of introduction to We’re Gonna Dance On Gasoline. A snarling, ominous anthem released back in April – a month after the band cancelled the Russian leg of their world tour in opposition to the war – it seems to address the Russian president directly, and offers up a completely different side to the band. It shows that there’s much more to them than just glam rock hedonism – something they think is increasingly important to show the world as the continue to get bigger.

“When we know enough about something specific, then we talk about it,” says Ethan on one of the few occasions he speaks during the interview. “Knowledge is important.”

“I love this quote by Billie Eilish,” says Damiano. “She said a super-smart thing, that having money makes you powerful, but sometimes saying no to money makes you even more powerful. I think it’s very true, and saying no to some places or some people or some industries which are fucking the world up is very powerful. It sends a message that you can fuck with them.”

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Måneskin aren’t going to be turning into Rage Against The Machine any time soon.

“It’s not about actual politics,” clarifies Vic about the band’s decision to not play in Russia. “It’s about humanity. When we stand up for Ukraine, we’re not discussing strategies or NATO, we’re just saying that it’s fucking inhuman to kill innocent people and invade a country like that. And I think some people really disagree with us saying that, but I think it’s really quite stupid, honestly. What we’re saying is just a matter of human rights and respecting other people – not having a fucking war going on and just invading and killing loads of innocents. And we like to stand [against] all the other injustices, like racism, homophobia, and misogyny. We don’t think it’s right for anyone to discriminate others or disrespect others.”

It’s here where the distance between Måneskin the band and Måneskin the people both starts to blur and become more distinct. Like the vast majority of musicians, their songs are just one part of their personalities and lives, not all of it – however much that’s mistaken to be the case. They look the part, and they act the part, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s entirely who they are. They’re not just a rock’n’roll band, even if they are a very good one. They’re much more than that.

“I do think that people got us a bit mistaken because we are a rock band,” admits Damiano. “They make the immediate connection between rock’n’roll and the super-savage lifestyle. There is that part, of course. Like, Vic and Tom love partying, but they’re of course responsible and don’t do drugs. I hate partying and I won’t go to a party unless it’s with my super-close friends. But we haven’t had the time to show ourselves in 360. Maybe we’re not even ready for that. People are very complex and complicated, so it’s hard to show everything about you just through interviews and social media and onstage.”

“It’s part of who we are, of course,” adds Victoria. “We can’t show every side of ourselves. Some things we like to keep private. Our friends and the people who are with us know, but it’s not like we’re faking anything. Of course we behave differently if we’re at a friendly dinner or we’re onstage, but that’s normal.”

Måneskin’s journey to these great heights might, from a distance, look like a whirlwind ascent to rock stardom, but really they’ve just been putting in the work from the very first day. Now they’re ready to get to the next phase of their career. Although they’re guarded about specifics, they’ve been in LA working on a new album with, among other people, famed Swedish producer and hitmaker Max Martin, where they say they’ve recorded “probably 50” songs for their next record. It is, truly, the stuff of dreams – except these are dreams that keep coming true, and look set to continue to do so for a long while yet.

“We always thought we could actually make it,” says Damiano, self-assured, but not arrogant. “Everything that is happening now makes us super happy and super proud, but we’re also not starstruck by it, because we fucking worked our asses off to get here. We deserve it and we know how to keep it and we know what we want to do. But we also know it’s not something that happens every day. We know that this is our train and we’ve been smart enough and lucky enough to jump on it, but since we’re already on it, we want to chill and enjoy the trip without thinking, ‘Where are we going to get to?’ Because we don’t really give a shit. We’re just having fun, and things are getting even better.”

Still, don’t rule out that, next time, maybe Måneskin will be the ones with the fenced-off complex inside the fenced-off complex. And you can bet your life already there’ll be plenty more people in attendance shedding those ‘pro fan’ tears during a moment they’ll never forget.

Måneskin’s new album RUSH! is due out on January 20, 2023, and the band play The O2 on May 8, 2023. This interview was originally published in the autumn 2022 issue of the magazine.

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