In 2022 four young Italians known as Måneskin vaulted into rock stardom.
Last year, the band opened for the Rolling Stones; grabbed a nomination for best new artist at the Grammy Awards; wrote and recorded songs with Max Martin, the most successful hitmaker of the past 25 years; and lit up some of the world’s biggest stages, including the Coachella, Lollapalooza, Rock in Rio and Global Citizen festivals. And in a triumphant homecoming concert last July, they performed for more than 70,000 people at Rome’s Circus Maximus — the ancient chariot-racing stadium — just a few miles from the middle school where three members of the band first started playing together.
Måneskin is the rare traditional rock band to break through at this level. The most unusual part of it is that they’re from Italy, a country not known for its international rock talent and whose presence on the global scene is negligible.
“At a certain point the narrative switched,” says singer Damiano David, 24, who, like the other band members, spoke to Variety in Italian. “It wasn’t ‘Why can’t we become something?’ It became, ‘Why not?’”
Of course, that kind of success comes at a cost, even for people in their early 20s. “With all this work, we hardly ever see our friends. So for us, being in Rome means recharging our batteries,” says 22-year-old guitarist Thomas Raggi. “It gives us a chance to go back to a normal life.”
But there is little time for relaxing and enjoying that “normal life.” Late last month, the group released “Rush!,” their third studio album and the first since they broke out globally as surprise winners of the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2021.
The band members are not shy about analyzing why they’ve hit big. “Objectively, what were we missing?” David asks. “We know how to play our instruments. We know how to write songs. We’re lucky to be good-looking. What was there to stop us before, except for that provincial thought, ‘We’re not going to make it outside Italy’?”
“I always had a feeling that we had the potential,” adds 22-year-old drummer Ethan Torchio. “I knew it was musically right for people around the world.” The band’s 2017 cover of the Four Seasons’ hit “Beggin’” has racked up more than a billion streams on Spotify alone.
The new celebrities have a similarly nonchalant attitude toward controversy they’ve generated, which ranges from outspoken support for Ukraine (David shouted “Fuck Putin!” at Coachella in 2022) to their pansexual swagger, which evokes everyone from David Bowie to Mötley Crüe. Måneskin are gender-fluid natives — at least two band members are openly bisexual or, as Torchio puts it, “sexually free.” They maintain a sense of humor about themselves and their image. At the American Music Awards in November, all four, including 22-year-old bassist Victoria De Angelis, wore comically thigh-baring formal suits with garters.
Måneskin officially formed in 2015, when David, Raggi and De Angelis were all teenagers in Rome’s middle-class Monteverde Vecchio quarter. The band’s name, pronounced “MON-eh-skin,” is Danish for “moonlight.” (De Angelis’ mother is Danish; the band asked her for some interesting words, and they liked that one.)
De Angelis has a characteristically irreverent take on how the band formed. “I was in a punk band with Damiano. He sucked, so we kicked him out: ‘Ciao, bello!’” she says, and the other band members crack up. “Then I formed a different band with Thomas, but we needed a singer and a drummer. Meanwhile, Damiano had written to me and said, ‘Can we please re-form the band?’ I said OK, and we found Ethan on Facebook.”
With the lineup in place in 2015, the group began busking on the streets of Rome. One of several videos that can be found online shows the group on the sidewalk of the Via del Corso performing “Chosen,” their first single and the song they performed on “X Factor Italia” in 2017.
Singer-songwriter Manuel Agnelli, the “X Factor” judge who coached the band on the show, recalls not being overly impressed by the song — but he was blown away by their personalities.
“The first thing I noticed about Måneskin was that they managed to hold up in unimaginable situations,” he says, citing David doing a pole dance on the show while wearing a thong and high heels. “He pulled it off perfectly — if anyone else had done it, they would have been laughed off.”
In March 2021, Måneskin won Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival, the country’s top-rated TV event, with the rebel anthem “Zitti e buoni” (basically a sarcastic “Shut up and behave”). “The song was very explicit in explaining who they are — their sense of rebelliousness that gives rock meaning again,” says La Repubblica music critic Gino Castaldo. “Just a few years earlier, their victory at Sanremo would have been unthinkable.”
But with their chutzpah, irreverence and talent, “why not?”
Discussion about this post