Måneskin: “We want to be who we are without anyone breaking our balls”

Chances are, the first thing you heard of Måneskin was when they conquered Europe. One thing’s for certain, though. It won’t be the last.

Words: Ali Shutler.

There’s been no shortage of guitar bands over the past decade, but few have achieved the level of cultural and commercial success as Måneskin. The morning after their last-minute headline show at London’s Islington Academy, we ask the Italian four-piece how they’ve done what so many other bands have only dreamt of. Bassist Victoria Angelis leans over to vocalist Damiano David and half whispers, “because we’re good”, as the rest of the band crack up.

“No joking, I think that’s the main reason,” says Damiano a moment later. “We really believe in this band, and we put a lot of effort into everything we do. This isn’t just a job for us; it’s a passion. People can relate to us because they can see it’s possible to make it with your own ideas and your own values. Most importantly, though, we make good music.”

Damiano and Vic, along with drummer Ethan Torchio and guitarist Thomas Raggi, are tired. In the past two weeks, they’ve played radio shows in Paris, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as that London headline show. The next two days are full of press, where they’ll defend their rock credentials, their choice of outfits and all the newfound attention. Then they’ll return to Italy before heading to America. Once there, there’ll be appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the Ellen DeGeneres show alongside a couple of headline shows in New York and Los Angeles, more radio performances, and a stadium support slot with The Rolling Stones. Then it’s back to Europe for the MTV EMAs, where the band will perform and pick up the award for Best Rock Act (beating out the likes of global titans Coldplay and The Killers). There hasn’t been a single performance where Måneskin haven’t looked and sounded like they’re having the time of their lives. “We put our guts into the music,” says Damiano.

Their schedule has been this hectic since Måneskin won Eurovision back in May with the lusty rock’n’roll stomp of ‘Zitti E Buoni’. Still, the four members are funny, engaged, and attentive for the duration of our chat. They’re all doing “good” after their “amazing” show. “Last night was not work. I think we had more fun than the audience,” says Damiano, but we’ll have to agree to disagree. Despite the expectations and the attention that Måneskin now contend with on a daily basis, they’ve never tried to be anything they’re not. Onstage at Islington Academy and sat down in Simon Cowell’s old office at Sony HQ, they’re just four kids who live for loud music.

“This isn’t just a job for us; it’s a passion”

Damiano David

When she was younger, Vic fell in love with Metallica. Thomas grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, while Ethan moved on from progressive fusion jazz to The Police. Meanwhile, Damiano was drawn to rock’n’roll singers because “they just seemed more powerful. The connection with the crowd and the energy they inspire, it’s different from anything else.” Like many music-obsessed teens, they started a band, and Måneskin was formed in 2016.

In the UK, the next step would be to start gigging at pubs and venues around the country, but in Italy, “it’s much harder,” says Damiano.

“It was really cool to play that venue in London yesterday, but we don’t have spaces like that in Italy. There’s no scene,” adds Thomas.

“We really struggled to find places to play,” continues Damiano. “There are a few clubs in Rome, but nobody wanted us to perform there because as a band, you take up too much space and you make too much noise. That’s why we started playing in the streets.”

Looking back now, he knows busking gave Måneskin the opportunity to “train our stage presence. We got used to having to grab people’s attention because you don’t have a crowd; you have pedestrians. Our style of performing definitely comes from there. But it was a lucky shot.”

“Growing up, it was normal to think there was no real chance for a band like us,” says Vic. “No one took us seriously, not even our parents. They always supported us, but when a 16-year-old comes to you and says they want to play with their band for the rest of their life… it’s not seen as something that can happen.”

“Luckily, we really believed in what we were doing, even if no one else was doing it,” Vic continues. “We enjoyed what we were doing and didn’t really think about the fact there was no real future in it.” Though, she’s quick to admit that doing that for years would probably have seen them lose that passion. “We lost a lot of money,” adds Damiano.

The band appeared on the eleventh season of Italian X Factor, not as a fast track to fame and fortune but because they had no other option. “It was the only way” for Måneskin to survive. “We never saw X Factor as a goal, but as the start for everything else,” says Damiano.

The experience was tough. Because Tom, Ethan and Vic were all under 18, they weren’t allowed to work after midnight, leaving Damiano to spend many nights alone on stage, pretending to play guitar, bass and drums to work out lighting cues. “It drove me nuts.”

“You’re essentially fitting three years’ worth of industry experience into a couple of months,” he explains. Their own European tours post-X Factor felt relaxing by comparison. The experience also taught the band to stick to their guns. “Obviously, it’s a TV show, so they want specific things, but we quickly learnt to say no and to do things our own way.”

“Growing up, it was normal to think there was no real chance for a band like us”

Victoria Angelis

They came second in the competition, and their ‘Chosen’ mini-album was released soon after – featuring covers of The Killers, Ed Sheeran, The Black Eyed Peas and The Four Seasons alongside a couple of original songs. They followed it up with debut album ‘Il ballo della vita’ (The Dance Of Life) in 2018, which saw the group toy with pop-rock and indie, but it was second album ‘Teatro d’ira: Vol. I’ (Theatre Of Wrath) that really saw the band come into their own. “We grew up listening to the biggest bands of the 70s and 80s, and we take inspiration from that, but also we’re a band from today. We listen to modern music, and we’re influenced by many different things,” explains Vic. “It’s natural for us to redo that classic style of rock in a more modern way.”

They were a successful band, touring Europe and selling out shows, but they still decided to enter The Eurovision Song Contest at the start of 2021. “We knew things could go really bad, but we just saw it as a great chance. We had the opportunity to share our music with a huge, international audience,” explains Vic, who was very aware that Italian artists weren’t all that successful outside of Italy. “So we did what we always have done. Go there, be ourselves and play our music.”

“The rest will follow,” adds Damiano.

According to Måneskin, they’ve always been underdogs. Growing up, no one thought they were going to achieve anything and years later, sat backstage in Rotterdam, nothing much had changed. “People were telling us it was impossible for us to win Eurovision,” says Damiano. “They were saying we’d never win playing this kind of music. They said no one wants to listen to rock music nowadays. Even on the last night, they were saying it’s impossible,” says Vic. It explains their acceptance speech, with Damiano telling the whole world that “rock and roll never dies”. Today he warns that “it could sound cocky, but we feel like we deserved it.”

“It was really fulfilling to be appreciated by a huge audience outside of Italy,” says Vic. “Winning? It was the perfect way to tell those people to fuck off.”

“Every plane we take, it reminds us of what we proved,” adds Damiano.

“We hope that we can be an inspiration for others. We’re already seeing fans buy instruments and start bands, which is amazing,” he continues.

“People were telling us it was impossible for us to win Eurovision, that no one wants to listen to rock nowadays”

Damiano David

Måneskin want their band to represent the fact “you don’t have to conform to what’s mainstream, or what others tell you to do,” says Vic. “You can just be yourself, both in music and in your own private life. Just be who you are.”

Songs like ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’, ‘MAMMAMIA’ and ‘Zitti E Buoni’ deal in self-expression, self-belief and sexual liberation and the band are advocates for LGTBQ+ rights.

“Our generation is starting to feel that things are not going well,” starts Damiano. “We are stuck in this old-fashioned culture that our parents and their parents built up. Throughout history, there have been these moments of revolution, and we just want to be part of the change.

“We feel like we can make a difference with our music and the platform we’ve got. We can inspire people to speak up about what they believe in and encourage people to be themselves. Of course, it’s easier for us to talk about it because we’re white, European and privileged. We know that. But we want to use our privilege to help those who aren’t.”

“There’s such a stigma around sexual expression, but it’s an important part of life, so we talk about it, despite the fact we get criticised by people who find it vulgar or inappropriate,” says Vic. They never set out to blur gender norms either, “it just came naturally,” says Damiano. “I like feminine clothes, and I want to be free to wear them. I believe everyone should be free to do that.”

Vic’s “honestly surprised” their gender-fluid style of dress has become such a talking point. “I don’t get why people make such a big deal out of it, but because they do, I think it’s even more important to try and have these discussions and open some minds.”

“But also, you should be able to be comfortable in your own clothes and not have to explain yourself to anybody,” says Damiano. “It’s empowering to look in the mirror and like what you see.”

Vic agrees, saying, “We get a lot of older people commenting about what we wear or how we act. They ask us what we’re trying to prove, but we’re not doing it to prove a point. We think we look good, and we don’t want to limit ourselves. Basically, we want to be who we are without anyone breaking our balls.”

“You should be able to be comfortable in your own clothes and not have to explain yourself to anybody”

Damiano David

It’s “very important” for Måneskin that their shows are safe spaces. “It’s just a moment to feel free, enjoy yourselves and not have to worry about life in general,” says Vic. After a summer of playing festivals and their own shows, they’ve found they’re attracting “a very respectful crowd. The people who enjoy our music know what we stand for. If there were ever any dickheads though, we’d kick them out,” she says, without a moment’s hesitation and a clenched fist.

There are a lot of people who’ll passionately tell you that Måneskin aren’t a rock band because of how they found success. “People expect us to be drunk or doing drugs all the time,” says Damiano. After their Eurovision win, he was accused of snorting cocaine in the green room, but a voluntary drugs test proved otherwise.

It’s something he pokes fun at on new single ‘MAMMAMIA’ (“I swear that I’m not drunk, and I’m not taking drugs”). The first track released since things went stratospheric for Måneskin is a joyful, playful, rock’n’roll romp.

“Everything was so serious, and the whole world was watching us, waiting for us to make a mistake. We just wanted to make fun of everything and show people we’re having fun doing what we’ve always wanted to do,” says Damiano. The band try and live with a carefree attitude, and if they’ve felt any pressure ahead of the release of ‘MAMMAMIA’, they’re not admitting it today.

“The hard part was that we didn’t have much time to write,” starts Vic before explaining that they “never have much time. That’s the thing that makes me feel a little bit of pressure, but when we’re in the studio, we forget about the schedules and everything else going on and just focus on creating.”

Somehow, the band have managed to find time to write more music inspired by the hectic few months Måneskin have been through. “We’re playing lots of new places to a lot of new fans. We take the energy from those situations and put it into our music,” says Thomas. The only difference the band have noticed in their crowds since Eurovision is that “they’re getting wilder.”

“We have a few new songs, ready for an emergency,” says Damiano, who’s also enjoying being busy. “The worst moment for me as a lyricist was lockdown because the only thing I saw was Netflix and my cats. I wasn’t really on fire; I was just fucking bored and angry. Now though, we are living through a crazy moment in our lives. We’re in a different city every two days, and that can give you a lot of inspiration. You just have to be able to catch your emotions, then translate them into music. Though that’s easier to say than do.”

Musically as well, Måneskin are taking influence from all over. “Every day, we discover new music. Sometimes we get inspired by a song that sounds nothing like us, but something just clicks. We’re really open with music, as long as a song has a personality,” explains Vic, who believes Måneskin are connecting with so many people “because we make rock music in a modern way. Even if it’s rough and hard, it’s very catchy. It’s enjoyable, even if you’re not into rock music.”

Måneskin are the first guitar band in almost twenty years to really cross over into the mainstream. Does that make them feel like the saviours of rock’n’roll? Vic says no instantly, but Damiano isn’t as reserved. “Maybe we’re the saviours of music in general,” he laughs before explaining how the band just think about their own path. “We just want to make our music and see where it takes us.” Despite all the success, “we’re still aiming for something more. We don’t want to stop. We love what Måneskin has become, but we want to keep doing it for as long as we can. We really believe in it.”

But are Måneskin rock stars? “For sure,” starts Damiano. “We’re rock stars, we’re pop stars, and if we wanted to do hip-hop, we’d be rap stars. We can be whatever we want, just like everybody else.”

Still, Måneskin aren’t letting other people’s opinions bother them. “We naturally don’t give a fuck about expectations. We know what we want to do, and we’re not affected by bad comments from stupid people. Maybe it’s cocky, but it helps us. Anyway, while they’re commenting on Facebook, we’re on stage, so I think we win.” Damiano hopes their not-giving-a-fuck-attitude is contagious. “It’s a good way to live your life.”