Bbefore their memorable Eurovision victory with Zitti e Buoni, putting Italian rock back on the world stage and earning the praise of Simon Le Bon and Miley Cyrus; before a baseless accusation of sniffing cocaine almost escalated into a real diplomatic crisis; and before their post-victory ping pong tournament become a secondary story, the Italian group Måneskin had already raised eyebrows in Rotterdam, the host city of this year.
After a late rehearsal ended, bassist Victoria De Angelis says, they were parched – but realized there was no clean water in their hotel rooms. “We went to the hotel reception, but they said there was no water around,” says De Angelis. “So we went into the kitchen and took some. “
Cameras captured them and the next morning the hotel contacted Måneskin’s management, claiming the artists had stolen water and had to pay for it. “And, of course, we did! Said De Angelis.
“Yes, we behaved well! »Intervenes guitarist Thomas Raggi. The band members can barely keep a straight face as they share this anecdote – which is more reminiscent of a summer school adventure abroad than a song contest that reached 183 million people.
As they admit their guilt in the late-night hydration bust, they are upset by the unproven coke snorting allegations, which were voiced after cameras caught frontman Damiano David leaning over- above a table. David, who said he cleaned a broken glass, then took a drug test, which came back negative. “I think if someone isn’t particularly good, there’s no reason to criticize them,” he says. “So I saw it all like, ‘Oh, Måneskin is too good, we have to say he sniffs. “ I know it’s not great to self congratulate, but the truth is we played really well and they needed something to discredit us.
“Damiano hardly drinks beer,” adds De Angelis.
“Yes, it’s a losing, a moron: he goes to bed at 11pm with his chamomile tea, ”says Raggi.
Måneskin – Danish for moonlight, inspired by De Angelis’ half-Danish heritage – premiered in 2015 and had a stint as street musicians on the streets of Rome. They came second in X Factor Italia’s 2017 series, their swaggering rock’n’roll instead eclipsing this year’s winner. After their first album, Il Ballo della Vita (The Dance of Life), triple platinum in Italy, they won the 2021 edition of the Sanremo Music Festival, the winner of which becomes the country participating in Eurovision.
During our conversation, they freely discuss, supplement and comment on each other’s responses in the manner of the characters in Seinfeld, alternating between light mockery and serious contemplation, all with artistic curiosity and refreshing candor. While they recognize how important Eurovision can be for musicians who don’t sing in English, they say they didn’t grow up as fans of the competition.
“We were never the biggest followers of a cult,” says David, explaining that for people their age – they were all born between 1999 and 2001 – Eurovision doesn’t just sound like it has with the older generations. After Toto Cutugno’s victory in 1990, its relevance declined 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 expectations and preconceived ideas; you could argue 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 is difficult to have a global audience, but once you have the right opportunity, the music is the one that speaks. «
Their second album, 2021’s Teatro D’Ira: Vol 1, cemented their reputation as solid live artists and added a tinge of authorial ambition. The band evokes 70s rock with a twist of millennial nostalgia, straddling a continuum between Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Arctic Monkeys in exquisitely cut pants. They recorded the album live and in a remote rural studio, like so many rock greats before them. “After our first album, when we were very young, we had a moment where we stopped and we thought: what kind of band do we want to be? David said. This introspection lasted two years.
“The work shows greater artistic maturity,” says Raggi, who says they stopped focusing on David’s soulful vocals and created the feeling of an entire band playing: “Our artistic vision is becoming more and more sharper. Drummer Ethan Torchio seconds Raggi with a hint of nerdiness. “There has been a thorough technical study of our instruments – our leap in quality is due to the fact that we have worked very hard towards the same goal. “
The group attributes the success of Zitti e Buoni to a combination of Italian language and a traditional sound that English-speaking listeners were easily able to acclimatize to. “Zitti e Buoni is a very old song of ours,” says David. “It’s one of our first songs in Italian and before it was completely different – it was an acoustic ballad with just voice and guitar, but we couldn’t come up with a convincing chorus. Then, after a few years, they relaunched it, thanks to a riff composed by Raggi. “Pssssh! The magic happened, ”says David.
The English-language anthem I Wanna Be Your Slave – which like Zitti e Buoni is in the UK Top 30 – was also a bit slow. “Damiano once sent an audio note to our group chat where he said, ‘Hey, look at that banger I made up on the piano. »I was hanging out with Thomas, and we said to each other: that sounds like shit,», this De Angelis.
It took a work trip to London, where they transferred it to bass and distorted it, for it to click. “My audio note was indeed bad,” says David. “But my group mates, as artists, should to have had a minimum of imagination.
The power ballad Vent’Anni (20 years old), which begins with the warning: “I am only 20 years old, so don’t be surprised if I have a tendency for drama”, is a meditation on being faithful to you. yourself and your heritage. “Vent’Anni is another side of us: we are young, we talk about our experiences. There is rage, anger, aggression, but there are more thoughtful and intimate parts, ”explains David.
Coraline – my favorite – combines their signature rock with the poetic imagery of the tradition of Italian singer-songwriters, a tribute to Italian songwriters. What begins as a description of a girl with hair “like red roses” and “copper threads” is a study of a character who is still a child but ultimately carries the world on her shoulders. “She wants the sea, but is afraid of the water, but maybe the sea is inside her / Every word is an ax, a cut in the back. “
Måneskin’s success has been touted as an oddity – in Italy and on Eurovision – because they are a rock band rather than a pop group. Aren’t talent shows the domain of stiff, songbird-like performers? And isn’t Eurovision the arena for the Abba-style bubblegum high-camp?
Certainly the only rock group to have won Eurovision before was the Finnish orc cosplay group Lordi, in 2006 with the magnificent Hard Rock show Hallelujah. But rock entries have been a staple of Eurovision since 1956, when Freddy Quinn presented the rock’n’roll song So Geht Das Jede Nacht. Wearing glam-rock inspired unitards in metallic leather with slight fetish elements, designed by Etro, and using an ensemble that casts towering shadows on the backdrop, Måneskin wowed audiences with an energetic and elegant performance. , demonstrating that all Eurovisions the entrance must be a camp to be memorable.
Additionally, although the English public is mostly unaware, there is an Italian rock tradition, from the Premiata Forneria Marconi group in the 1970s to artists who have enjoyed constant mainstream success since the 1980s, such as Vasco. Rossi and Gianna Nannini.
In 1979, prog-rocker-turned-singer-songwriter Ivano Fossati, who wrote some of the most artistically refined songs for Italian divas (Do Yourself and Listen to Danza), released La Mia Banda Suona Il Rock. It’s a rock song that has had a huge critical, commercial and cultural impact in Italy (and makes it a great drunk karaoke number). The lyrics praise music, especially rock, as a vehicle for universal communication: “It seeps through walls, it goes through doors and, in the end, it tells you that your soul is not dead. Måneskin is part of this philosophy, straddling the border between reality and escape. “Music is a way for us to express a full range of emotions,” says Raggi. “The stage is like your magic box, where you can do whatever you want, because you are 100% free and you can express yourself for who you really are. “
Måneskin acknowledges that their foundation rests on English language acts, such as the aforementioned Chili Peppers and Led Zeppelin, plus REM and, in Torchio’s case, “a lot of progressive rock”. Nonetheless, De Angelis highlights Italian rock groups from the 80s and 90s, such as Marlene Kuntz, whose songs combine noise rock and the tradition of Italian singer-songwriters; Verdena, who draws on grunge; and the alternative rock band Afterhours. “Of course, the dominance of pop-indie-trap in Italy is undeniable, but then came Måneskin,” says De Angelis. “There is a new domination now! David said.
They have already sold out most of the dates in Italian concert halls for their 2021-22 tour and are reserving appearances at major European festivals, such as Rock am Ring in Germany. Rolling Stone Italia noticed that by singing in Italian they might be big fish in a small pond, while in English they might be goldfish in the ocean. Nevertheless, they are clearly adapting to the new ecosystem.