If Måneskin wins the Grammy for Best New Artist this Sunday, they have no idea what they’ll do. They’ll probably act on instinct in the moment, they suppose—a strategy that has yet to fail them in their more than seven years as a band.
But if they lose?
“If we lose, I don’t want to be like”—singer Damiano David screws up his faces and claps sarcastically like Nancy Pelosi at the 2019 State of the Union—“‘Oh, yeah, yeah, they deserved it.’”
Victoria de Angelis cuts in, feeding off her bandmate’s energy. “If we lose,” she declares, “we jump on stage, push the person down, and—” The bassist grabs an imaginary mic and bends over it, screaming. Then she breaks character and leans back, unleashing a hoarse cackle.
“I want [an] honest reaction,” David says. “Stop faking it, like, ‘OK, it doesn’t matter.’ Yeah, it fucking matters. Of course it matters.”
With David and de Angelis speaking to The Daily Beast over Zoom while crammed together on a tiny couch alongside their bandmates, guitarist Thomas Raggi and drummer Ethan Torchio, Måneskin exemplifies how far clinging to an artistic philosophy of total authenticity can get you. After the analogue Italian rockers charged to a champagne-spraying victory before 183 million people at Eurovision 2021, they probably should have gone the way of most other past winners and peacefully faded into obscurity.
Instead, they’ve since racked up more than 6.5 billion streams on Spotify, bolstered by the hit single “Beggin’”. There’s been a Gucci campaign. An SNL performance. A Coachella set. An Elvis cover song for Baz Luhrman’s bombastic biopic. That night at Madonna’s house. That breakfast at Chris Martin’s house. That time Jimmy Fallon, wearing a blond wig, filled in for a sick de Angelis during a performance on The Tonight Show. The clock just seems to keep restarting on their 15 minutes of fame. (And to any hate-reading rock purists rolling their eyes at this laundry list of accomplishments, don’t worry—we’ll get to you.)
Måneskin knows you can’t keep the clock ticking without the attention and the accolades. Every award helps. So do the stamps of approval from their elder statesmen, like Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, and 92-year-old Liliana Segre, an Italian politician and Holocaust survivor who has said she gets swept up in the band’s music “just by looking at them.”
But in 2023, staying big means you have to feed the beast. Måneskin knows this, and they play the game well. Being Gen Z (their ages range from 22 to 24), they already have sharp instincts for what will do well online, and a built-in bullshit detector for what won’t. They know they have to keep the hype train rolling, so they’ll keep vlogging, filming TikToks, playing truth or dare for Teen Vogue, and doing Zoom interviews with The Daily Beast. Because ultimately, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep playing music to screaming crowds with their best friends.
The bigger Måneskin gets, though, the harder—and, according to some, the more important—it becomes to put them in a box. What’s their genre? Their sexuality? Their deal?
“We don’t care,” David says, shaking his recently-shorn head. “We just want to do our thing and have fun.”
It’s not like they’re not feeling the pressure. “Everyone is always trying to label everything and make you do things in a standard way. You have to convince the label or the radio [stations] or whatever,” de Angelis says. “That’s what needs to change. Rock ‘n’ roll means freedom.”
“Everyone is always trying to label everything and make you do things in a standard way. … That’s what needs to change. Rock ‘n’ roll means freedom.”
That’s what music has meant for the band since the beginning, in 2015, when they were just four middle schoolers in eyeliner drawing sideways looks as they duked it out with a hip-hop crew for the best busking patch on Rome’s main shopping street. (They usually lost.) It begs the question: Do they still feel like those teenage dirtbags? Or do they finally feel like rock stars?
“Yes,” answers Torchio, perennially unfazed.
They certainly look the part, with The New York Times’ chief fashion critic praising their “gleeful rock god” wardrobe just last week. That’s thanks in no small part to Gucci’s former creative director Alessandro Michele, who overhauled the band’s style, dressing them in ’70s flares, dog collars, poet’s sleeves, and one particularly memorable pair of assless chaps.
“With Måneskin there’s a very precise ritual: the clothes become a bonfire, they are set alight, and they turn to dust on stage,” Michele told Vogue last fall.
That self-immolation is on full display when Raggi plays the opening solo to “The Loneliest,” the ballad that serves as the third single off Måneskin’s newly released album, Rush!. The rest of the band clears the stage and Raggi, frequently bare-chested under a finely tailored suit, lights up.
“I feel complete freedom; I can totally improvise,” he says of that moment. A guitarist whose mop of hair and general vibe land somewhere on the spectrum between Natasha Lyonne and David Bowie circa 1969, Raggi explains that he takes his cues from the fans. “Every show, I try to create a different sound, because I have a different connection with the audience every night.”
De Angelis says she likes to peek out from backstage and watch the faces in the front row during Raggi’s solos. “That’s what really makes you feel something,” she says. “That moment is unique, and it’s only created live.”
Nearly two years after rocketing to global fame, Måneskin still seem genuinely stoked that they get to create “the magic connection with the crowd,” as de Angelis puts it. They hype each other up; at a recent show in New York, David grabbed a stage light and tilted it to shine on Raggi as he shredded his way through a song. In tour footage from last year, the bandmates horse around in their green rooms, dancing and roughhousing and teasing each other the way that only kids who have known each other since they were teenagers can.
In that way, they’re a unit, even though their interests diverge spectacularly. Raggi and de Angelis are the party animals, while David and Torchio are more protective of their peace and quiet. (David likes his cats and going to bed “at 11 p.m. with his chamomile tea,” as Raggi once joked, while Torchio says he writes music on his precious few days off.)
Their music tastes are similarly splintered, making Måneskin’s music a “contamination” of their respective influences, as David describes it. He likes pop melodies, while de Angelis prefers punk and rock. Raggi’s into classic rock, and Torchio likes seemingly everything under the sun, from classical to experimental. Their sound has only gotten more ambitious thanks to that melting pot of influences, and it’s what makes Rush!, which arrived last month, such a sonic adventure. It’s Måneskin’s longest album yet, comprising 17 songs sung in both English and Italian. While they were making the record, inspiration seemingly flooded in from everywhere. “Gossip,” the album’s fourth single, came out of a five-hour jam session with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who’s featured on the track. “Kool Kids” was written just days after winning Eurovision, when the band was riding high on an “everybody has to eat our shit” attitude, as David told The Guardian. “Gasoline” is a targeted strike at Vladimir Putin after the Ukraine invasion, and was released as part of a benefit for relief efforts. And left on the cutting room floor was around 50 other songs they’d written—destined for future albums, David promises.
Part of that intensely productive streak can be chalked up to the phalanx of outside songwriters and producers brought in to help create Rush!, including Max Martin, the prolific Swedish legend known for his work with Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, and The Weeknd. De Angelis admits she had her doubts about working with people other than her bandmates at first. But Martin “really understood who we are,” she says. “He didn’t try to change us, but just tried to add his thoughts—he confronted us, somehow. It was inspiring.”
At the same time, calling on a pop-forward mega-producer won’t help their case with the many people determined to hate Måneskin and brand them as shallow, posturing butt-rockers. “This Is the Band That’s Supposedly Saving Rock and Roll?” sneered one recent Atlantic headline. To that crowd, Rush! is the clearest sign yet that Måneskin are nothing but formulaic phonies. In his review, influential YouTube critic Anthony Fantano panned the record, calling it “pretentious” and its singles “dead on arrival.”
The band insists that the hate doesn’t bother them, but some aspect of it clearly gets under their skin. It’s even worked its way into Rush!—on “Bla Bla Bla,” David spits, “You said I’m ugly and my band sucks / But I just got a billion-streaming song / So kiss my bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-butt.” Ditto with their live performances; David closed out an intimate show in London last month by yelling, “We hope you like the new record, and if you don’t—go fuck yourself.”
Plus, it’s not like people haven’t been glaring at them from the start. “I remember that when we started playing in the streets, in secondary school, everyone used to make fun of us—we were the weirdos, the ones who dressed like oddballs,” de Angelis told Vogue. “If we’d been more fragile this would have stopped us; instead it triggered a sense of revenge in us, which spurred us on even more.”
Asked about all of this by The Daily Beast—the hate machine, their acknowledgement of it, and whether they might just have a chip on their shoulders—David casually waves the cigarette he’s just lit. “We spend our nights sleepless,” he deadpans.
De Angelis pulls a face. “Cry every night,” she adds sarcastically.
“We beg for mercy for our music and our aesthetic,” David moans, before snapping back into nonchalance. “No. We don’t give a shit. Like, I love reading hate comments.”
“Best part,” Torchio smiles.
“It’s my fuel,” David agrees. Then he grins wolfishly. “It’s my gasoline.”