Roman rock gods Måneskin on their surprise success: 'Giving a huge middle finger to all the things that have been said to us'

Måneskin's Ethan Torchio, Thomas Raggi, Damiano David, and Victoria De Angelis. (Photo: Epic Records)
Måneskin's Ethan Torchio, Thomas Raggi, Damiano David, and Victoria De Angelis. (Photo: Epic Records)

As winners of the over-the-top Eurovision Song Contest who hail from Italy, don’t always sing in English, and play supposedly unfashionable hard rock, Måneskin may not have seemed like obvious contenders to become mainstream American superstars.

But that’s exactly what has happened, against all odds.

After triumphing at Eurovision 2021 and having the second-biggest TikTok song of that year with their raucous cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’,” Måneskin have established themselves the biggest emerging rock bands of the past decade. They’ve toured with the Rolling Stones; recorded with Iggy Pop and Tom Morello; earned raves from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea (“She’s a rocker!” he said of Måneskin’s badass bassist, Victoria De Angelis) and Metallica; and performed on the MTV Video Music Awards and Saturday Night Live.

They’re the hottest Eurovision group to break in the U.S. since 1974 winners ABBA, and as they prepare to release their hotly anticipated third album, RUSH!, Måneskin just keep on winning. Charismatic frontman Damiano David tells Yahoo Entertainment that his ultimate goal is to win a Grammy, and that very well could happen at next month’s ceremony, where they’re nominated for Best New Artist. If David gets his wish, Måneskin will be the first Italian act to win in a “Big Four” Grammy category since the first annual ceremony in 1959.

It could be argued that what actually helped boost Måneskin’s profile in America — where Eurovision, despite being one of the most-watched broadcasts on the planet with an average annual audience of 200 million, isn’t that well-known — was a controversial (and, frankly, totally rock 'n' roll) moment from the telecast. The scandal, when David appeared to snort cocaine while sitting in the contestants’ lounge, instantly went viral, before the Måneskin’s “Zitti E Buoni” was even announced as 2021’s winning song. By the time a victorious, shirtless, champagne-swilling David and his bandmates attended their post-ceremony press conference, they had no choice but to address the gossip.

David steadfastly denied the allegations, explaining that the glittery mystery substance on the table in front of him had been shards from a glass that Måneskin guitarist Thomas Raggi had broken. “I don't use drugs, please, guys. Don't say that. Really, don't say that!” he insisted to the attending reporters.

Damiano David of Måneskin from Italy celebrates as they receive the winning trophy for the song “Zitti E Buoni” (Shut Up snd Be Quiet) during the 65th Eurovision Song Contest grand final held at Rotterdam Ahoy on May 22, 2021 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Damiano David of Måneskin from Italy celebrates as they receive the winning trophy for the song “Zitti E Buoni” (Shut Up snd Be Quiet) during the 65th Eurovision Song Contest grand final held at Rotterdam Ahoy on May 22, 2021 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

It was an awkward incident that could have derailed some young artists’ careers. But instead it got people talking about the group, and eventually, it even inspired one of RUSH!’s punkiest tracks, “Kool Kids.” Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment about the snarky song, which addresses “all the controversy with the cocaine and shit,” David explains that he’d been “shouting really, really bad words, like more than bad words that you cannot say in television” because he thought Måneskin were about to receive low points during the Eurovision vote-tally reveal. “So, I bended [forward], because I was hiding [from the camera].”

David then chuckles, “Yeah, so they thought that I was so much of a genius, because I think if you do you're more than just a man — you're like a demigod! Like, I was so powerful to take a line of coke in live television in front of 80 million people on the table, on the f***ing table, first row in the arena? … And then with the perspective, it seemed like I have the most powerful nose, to [be able to] snort cocaine from 12 inches [away]? There's a lot of drama. I wish I did it. I just love it. Unfortunately, I don't do drugs.”

Davis later voluntarily took a “f***ing drug test,” which came back negative for cocaine (“It was ketamine,” De Angelis jokes to Yahoo), and he cleared his name. But sometimes he wonders if he should have gone so out of his way to refute the wild rock ‘n’ roll rumor. “I decided to do that [drug test] on my own, but I regretted it so much,” he laughs. “I wish the day after when I said, ‘No, it's not true’… I regret it, because I wanted people to think, ‘Maybe he's so f***ing crazy that he did it!’”

However, the anger in “Kool Kids,” which the group “wrote immediately after Eurovision,” doesn’t just stem from that specific incident. Sardonic lines like “Everybody knows that rock ‘n’ roll is shit/But I don’t give a f*** about being a cool kid” and the quite to-the-point “Eat my shit” were inspired by the many detractors — incredibly, even people working for the band — who didn’t believe that Måneskin could succeed by playing ‘70s/’80s-reminiscent glam-rock.

“Before [winning Eurovision], we had a whole team telling us to [change our style],” David reveals. “Like, they thought ‘Zitti E Buoni’ was a shitty song. They told they once — and this is the most iconic thing that ever happened to us — ‘If you think that “I Wanna Be Your Slave” is a hit, then you don't know nothing about music!’” That latter single, released two months before Måneskin won Eurovision with “Zitti E Buoni,” eventually went platinum or multiplatinum in 11 countries and topped Billboard's Hard Rock Songs chart in the States; a duet remake with former Stooges frontman Iggy Pop, one the band’s many idols-turned-admirers, was later released.

“We had this feeling that we were like invincible, but at the same time we were a bit pissed-off, because we won Eurovision but our team was telling us that our music is shit,” David recalls. “We had this frustration, and so we kind of mixed these two feelings and created this song [“Kool Kids”], which is a huge middle finger to all the things that have been said to us.”

David adds with a smirk that after Måneskin won Eurovision, all sorts of former naysayers were “trying to jump on the train, but we f***ed them off. Immediately we shook the train, and they fell off.” And of course, now Måneskin — David, De Angelis, Raggi, and drummer Ethan Torchio — are the coolest kids around.

Not everything about Måneskin’s newfound success has been positive. One track on RUSH!, “Mark Chapman,” a protest against the media’s glorification of “serial killers and psychopaths” named after the man who murdered John Lennon, was also partially inspired by David’s own recent experience with a stalker. “I had books sent to my house and I had weird shit happening,” the singer reveals. “I had this woman following me and my girlfriend and trying to keep track of everything that we were doing and sending stuff to our house — and I don't know how she got to know where we lived. So it's like, you don't feel safe. … I don't even remember the book. I don't even think I opened it.”

But the four childhood friends, who have been a band since 2016, have leaned on each other for support as their lives have drastically changed, for the better and worse, during the rush of the past two years. And they are happy they stuck to their rock ‘n’ roll vision, together. In fact, De Angelis believes they became so successful because they “didn't try to conform to the market or something that was not authentic for us.”

Says De Angelis: "I think people can see this and appreciate it in our music, and that maybe nowadays it's quite sad that often a lot of artists get forced to do something that is not who they really are, because it's not what is trending in the charts and stuff. So, it feels quite refreshing to see a young band coming up and playing something that is not what is more modern at the moment — but it's just something that they genuinely like and resonate with.”

Watch Måneskin’s full, extended Yahoo Entertainment interview above, in which they discuss writing and singing in English vs. Italian; more details about “Kool Kids,” “Mark Chapman,” and RUSH!; the stigma associated with competitions like Eurovision and The X Factor; their special bond; and their other lofty yet seemingly attainable career goals.

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