A key to the success of Måneskin is their musical eclecticism. They can cover a ‘60s tune like the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’” or a 2000s hit like The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me,” and bring each into their own style — while at other times, channeling the White Stripes or Red Hot Chili Peppers. And while the Italian quartet possesses standard rock band qualities that have endeared them to old-school audiences and radio programmers, they also flaunt their individual personalities, gender fluidity and knack for showmanship in a way that encourages young listeners and TikTok users to hop aboard the bandwagon, too.
Måneskin’s exuberant cover of “Beggin’” blew up around the world in 2021, four years after the band first performed the cover. Since then, original tunes like “Supermodel” and “Mammamia” have earned millions of streams, the band opened for The Rolling Stones before headlining in the U.S. last fall, and in a few weeks they might take home the best new artist Grammy. Yet Rush!, their third album out this Friday (Jan. 20), carries the weight of expectation as their first full-length since stepping foot on the global stage.
The contributions of Max Martin on multiple tracks suggests a major pop bid, but Rush! spans the punk energy of “Kool Kids,” the balladry of “The Loneliest” and the groove-ready rock of “Gossip,” which features a guitar solo from Tom Morello. The album revels in the diversity of its four perspectives. As bassist Victoria De Angelis notes, “We don’t have actually similar tastes at all. We all have very different tastes and music backgrounds, so we influence each other in the writing process.”
While color-coordinated in chic brown and tan outfits, the four members of Måneskin – De Angelis, singer Damiano David, guitarist Thomas Raggi and drummer Ethan Torchio – sat down with Billboard for a Zoom discussion on their music, ethos and chemistry. (Note: this interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
While you’ve had a fairly even split between English and Italian lyrics on your past releases, the majority of Rush! is in English, with only three songs being sung in Italian. Is this a strategy to get you to a larger audience?
Damiano: It’s not a strategy. Basically, when we started being a band and writing songs, we started writing in English, because 90% of our influences are not strictly English, but English-sounding. We had to learn how to write music in Italian because we never thought about it. But then we got big in Italy, and we had to start doing it – and also because it’s our language and we want to do it. But now we finally had the chance to make almost the whole album in English, because it’s like going back to our beginning. It’s what we are most used to doing.
Victoria: We really never forced it. It’s always been quite natural and in the moment. We do what we feel. I think also because we wrote most of the record while we were in the U.S., so we were getting inspired and seeing a lot of shows there, meeting artists and stuff.
“Beggin’” has over a billion views on YouTube now. How has its success influenced what you’ve been trying to do since then? Have you felt pressure to follow that up?
Damiano: No, I think that for us we managed to take only the best part out of it, because that song drove behind all the other songs and all the catalog. Fortunately, it was not just that song. It [the success] happened while we were thinking about this new record, so we just thought that drive could only make us our music more open and reach more people. It just gave us more hype to write the album, because we knew that this time, it was going to be different.
On your first album, Damiano wrote nearly all of the songs. The second album was a group effort. And then on Rush! you brought in outside songwriters and producers, like Sly and Rami Yacoub. What was that process like this time?
Damiano: We just wanted to shuffle the cards this time. We have played together for more than eight years. We just got to a point where we thought that we were able to put the band’s signature on every song. But we were also able to embrace not just one direction, but keep it more random, and follow each one’s different tastes and let each one of us lead in different songs. So writing the songs was easier. But then it was harder to pick [a track list], because with this method we wrote many, many more songs. We wrote like 60 songs, so it was very hard to pick these 17.
Ethan: If it were limitless, we would have done a record with 50 tracks.
You worked with Max Martin on four of these tracks. What was that experience like?
Victoria: This thing he’s known for, pop, is what drew us to him, because we want to try something different and to be stimulated in a different way. We’re used to doing music in our vision, and we know how it is to get in the studio and jam, the four of us. We still do it and we’ve done it on a bunch of songs on the record, but we also wanted to try something new.
We were very curious about this match because we love doing covers – “Beggin’” is a pop song. We play them and make them in a completely new flavor and version. So that was the match that we wanted to try with him, to get a bit of his pop sensibility and advice, but then take it and turn into who we are and make it more dirty and sound like us. I think he really understood what we wanted.
The first time we met him was at our show, where it really shines through what kind of band and energy we have and like. It was very easy in the studio, because he got it, and respected our identity and who we are. It was just like a school – understanding a different way of doing stuff. He has years of experience, so he really gave us some good advice.
Ethan: He’s so caring. … Something I really learned from him are the rules in the music writing process. You can follow them, you can not follow them. It’s a choice. But I learned this for him.
What was the most unusual process this time around?
Victoria: Basically, we would always just go in the studio and jam. I think we learned what was very useful was just to record all the jamming. Tom Morello literally jams for five hours, records everything, and then he listens back to five hours of recording and finds all the small, cool parts he has played. Then he picks the best ones and makes the song out of it. That was a really cool way of doing it.
Ethan: You need patience.
Thomas: Exactly. Because if you stay in that moment, really natural, you can take the best part with the best energy.
Your younger fans love how you embrace gender fluidity, at a time where, in both Italy and America, LGBTQ+ rights and protections are still an issue.
Damiano: Yeah, sure. I think [Italy] is still a few years later than USA because, like everything we import in Italy, it takes a few years to start. But things are starting to change. People are starting to build a situation where it’s possible to think about changing things. And there’s always more and more people, especially of our age or slightly older, 20, 30, that are creating communities and groups and are speaking up about things that have not spoken up for too many years. I think we’re in a good place right now.
In 2021, you did a TV performance in Poland, a country that is more religiously conservative. How did the Polish TV censors respond to the kiss between Damiano and Thomas at the end of that performance?
Damiano: You could see all the people of the same age of us were super hyped, and all the parents were like, “Oh, s—t, what’s going on? Do I like it? Should I like it? Should I not like it?” Half and half, as always.
Victoria: I think that moment has a really big meaning for our audience there, from all the people from the community, because there’s really a lack of representation and they face a lot of issues. Even now in Italy, as you said in America, it’s still a s—t situation, where people struggle for their rights and everything. So it’s never to be taken for granted anywhere, but especially there everyone was literally telling us, “It’s so homophobic here, you can’t even walk with your girlfriend or boyfriend or wear what you want.” That’s why we wanted to make a statement about it. I think it meant a lot for fans, so that was the most important thing.
What’s the most personal song on the new album for you?
Thomas: “Gossip,” because I wrote the main riff one day when we went in the studio in L.A., and I remember that we took that main riff on the Dropbox of the old songs. We said, “Okay, this is a really cool riff and good riff,” but after another session, I remember that we just took the main riff that became “Gossip” with Morello and the other stuff. I was very happy at the time.
Victoria: I’d say “Kool Kids,” because it was one of the first songs we wrote, and it was one of the first riffs I came up with, so I’m very proud of that riff. I love that we had the courage to make such a powerful, strong, punk song in a mainstream record nowadays.
Ethan: Victoria stole the one that I want to say. So I’m gonna say another one, “Read Your Diary,” because I love the harmonic progression that Thomas has done. I also like the drums a lot. How they sound in the song is very cool.
Damiano: “Timezone.” I think it’s not the easiest song, but the easiest to read. There’s no metaphors, it’s very clear what I’m saying. I’m not trying to hide behind double meanings. It’s just a circle of thoughts, without any censorship.
Tracy McKnight is joining BMI as vp of creative, film, TV & visual media. In the role, McKnight will lead the day-to-day functions of the department while identifying and signing new affiliates to BMI and cultivating relationships with the company’s roster of film, TV and visual media composers. Additionally, she will help develop programs and events that support career development while providing opportunities to highlight the work of BMI’s composers. […]
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