THE GUARDIAN REPORTS / UNITED KINGDOM – Already multiplatinum in their native Italy, the swaggering rock quartet now has two singles in the UK chart. They discuss their rise to success – and that drug-taking allegation.
Before their momentous Eurovision victory with Zitti e Buoni, placing Italian rock back on the world stage and earning praise from Simon Le Bon and Miley Cyrus; before a baseless accusation of snorting cocaine almost veered into a full-blown diplomatic crisis; and before their post-win ping-pong tournament became a twee secondary narrative, the Italian band Måneskin had already raised eyebrows in Rotterdam, this year’s host city.
After a rehearsal session ended late, says the bassist, Victoria De Angelis, they were parched – but realized there was no drinking water in their hotel rooms.
“We went to the hotel reception, but they said there was no water around,” De Angelis says. “So we made it into the kitchen and took some.”
Cameras caught them and the following morning the hotel contacted Måneskin’s management, claiming that the artists had stolen some water and needed to pay for it.
“And, of course, we did that!” says De Angelis.
“Yeah, we behaved well!” interjects the guitarist, Thomas Raggi.
The band members can barely keep a straight face while telling this anecdote – more reminiscent of a summer-school-abroad adventure than a song contest that reached 183 million people.
While they admit their guilt in the late-night hydration bust, they are vexed by the unproven coke-snorting allegations, which were voiced after cameras picked up Damiano David, the frontman, leaning over a table. David, who said he had been clearing up a smashed glass, later took a drug test, which came back negative.
“I think that, if someone is not particularly good, there’s no reason to criticize them,” he says. “So I saw this whole thing as: ‘Oh, Måneskin is too good, we have to say he’s snorting.’ I know it’s not great to be so self-congratulatory, but, truth is, we performed very well and there was something they needed to discredit us.”
“Damiano barely drinks beer,” adds De Angelis.
“Yeah, he’s such a sfigato, a dork: he goes to bed at 11 pm with his chamomile tea,” says Raggi.
They acknowledge how important Eurovision can be for musicians who do not sing in English, they say they did not grow up as fans of the contest.
“We’ve never been the biggest cult followers,” says David, explaining that, for people their age – they were all born between 1999 and 2001 – Eurovision does not have the resonance it has with older generations. After Toto Cutugno’s victory in 1990, its relevance waned in Italy to the point that, between 1998 and 2010, the country did not participate. “What we’ve always tried to do is never set any preconceived expectations and notions upon ourselves; one could say that neither X Factor nor Sanremo is the right context for a rock band, but we avoid such a rigid mindset. Living in Italy, it’s hard to get a global audience, but, once you get the right opportunity, then the music is the one doing the talking.”
Their second album, 2021’s Teatro D’Ira: Vol 1, cemented their reputation as solid live entertainers and added a tinge of auteur ambition. This soul-searching lasted for two years.
The group credits the success of Zitti e Buoni to a combination of Italian language and a mainstream sound that was easy for anglophone listeners to acclimatize to.
The English-language anthem I Wanna Be Your Slave – which, like Zitti e Buoni, is in the UK Top 30 – was a slow-burner, too.
The pop-indie-trap dominance in Italy is undeniable, but then along came Måneskin. There’s a new dominance now! It took a work trip to London, during which they transferred it to the bass and applied distortion, for it to click.
The only rock group to win Eurovision previously was the Finnish orc-cosplay band, Lordi, in 2006, with the magnificent spectacle of Hard Rock Hallelujah. But rock entries have been a Eurovision staple since 1956 when Freddy Quinn presented the rock’n’roll song So Geht Das Jede Nacht. By wearing metallic-leather glam-rock-inspired unitards with slight fetish elements, designed by Etro, and by using a set that cast imposing shadows on the backdrop, Måneskin delighted audiences with a performance that was energetic and elegant, demonstrating that not every Eurovision entry needs to be camp to be memorable.
Måneskin acknowledge that their foundations lie in English-language acts, such as the aforementioned Chili Peppers and Led Zeppelin, plus REM and, in the case of Torchio, “a lot of prog-rock”. Nonetheless, De Angelis highlights the 80s and 90s Italian rock bands, such as Marlene Kuntz, whose songs combine noise rock and the Italian singer-songwriter tradition; Verdena, who draw from grunge; and the alt-rock band Afterhours.
They have already sold out most dates in Italian concert halls for their 2021-22 tour and are booking appearances at major European festivals, such as Rock am Ring in Germany.