No matter how you pronounce their name, Italian rock group Maneskin may be one of today’s most famous and successful global musical acts.
In 2021, the band – made up of vocalist Damiano David, bassist Victoria De Angelis, guitarist Thomas Raggi and drummer Ethan Torchio – won Europe’s biggest song competition, Eurovision, and has been unstoppable ever since.
They’ve scored three number one hits just this year on the Billboard rock charts: Their viral cover of Frankie Valli’s “Beggin’,” “I Wanna be Your Slave” and “Supermodel.”
They were also recently nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards, including Best New Artist. They’ve dropped by the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and headlined “Saturday Night Live.”
Just over a year ago, the four rockers were little-known musicians playing in the streets of Rome and fighting other street performers for a spot on the corner that would attract the most people. Now, attracting a crowd is as simple as announcing their next concert.
Earlier this month, they played to a sold-out crowd of 70,000 at Rome’s iconic Circus Maximus and have been invited to perform at some of the largest music festivals in the US, including Coachella and Lollapalooza, where they will appear for the first time this Sunday.
This fall, they will embark on their first world tour, which will take them all over the United States, Europe and Latin America with tickets selling fast and dates extending into 2023.
CNN correspondent Maria Santana caught up with Maneskin in New York before they were set to perform for a smaller, more intimate crowd at the city’s “House of X” as part of Sirius XM’s Small Stage Series, and talked to them about their meteoric rise to fame, their humble beginnings, the next stops on their world tour, covering the “King of Rock n Roll,” Elvis Presley, and why they are standing up for the people of Ukraine.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
The first thing I need to ask is how do you pronounce your band’s name?
Santana: I always hear Man-Eh-Skin.
Victoria De Angelis: Yeah, everything is fine.
Santana: So, Moan-A-Skin?
Thomas Raggi: Moan-A-Skin is perfect.
And what does Maneskin mean?
DeAngelis: It means moonlight. I picked it up when we first started playing because we needed to join this musical competition, and we didn’t have a name yet, so they just told me just say random words in Danish, and we chose one.
Looking back at this last year, I’m sure it’s been absolutely crazy for you, from where you were a year ago to now?
Damiano David: Yeah, it’s been a crazy journey, but of course we are really happy about everything that we did, and every time we look back, all the steps, we are super happy and proud.
What has been the most surprising, maybe the most exciting thing, that has happened to you this past year?
raggi: I think that we’ve had lots of incredible moments during this last year. Maybe a song with Iggy Pop is one of these, of course, and playing with The Stones. I mean a lot, it’s been a lot.
Now you’re filling stadiums with 70,000 people, selling out tickets for 80,000, and you’ve said it was really hard for you guys to even find a place to play in Italy. What was that like when you started?
De Angelis: It was very difficult because in Rome there’s no real rock scene, so there’s no like clubs wanting bands to play their stuff, and also people are not very used to going to gigs of upcoming artists.
They just go to the famous ones that they already know, so it was really hard and that’s why we started playing as buskers on the streets. We were always fighting with the other street artists about having the best spot, and we never won, but… (laughter).
And then you do Eurovision, how did it change your life?
David: I think that was our first actual window outside of Italy. Since that moment we were only basing our projects for Italy and on Italy and that was the chance to break out in Europe, then from Europe to the US, and we hope to grow more and more.
What was it like to win for Italy? It had been like 30 years since Italy had won Eurovision, and then you win with rock n’ roll, a genre which is not very big there?
Raggi: Yes, that’s crazy.
David: That was unexpected I think for everyone.
De Angelis: Yeah, everyone was very proud, big celebration.
A lot of times for Eurovision winners, they have that big moment and then they kind of disappear. What do you think makes you guys different that you’ve been able to take this and catapult so much and become this worldwide phenomenon?
David: I think for us Eurovision came at a very right moment because we had just come out with an album, so what we brought to Eurovision was basically just one of the things of the whole album and it was fresh, and it was super authentic for us. So, I think that people were happy to find a lot of coherence between what we brought to Eurovision and what they saw in our catalogue, and they felt like, OK, this is not just a viral song that they made specifically for Eurovision, but it’s just one of their songs and then they have two albums, and it all makes sense.
Then, you release “Beggin,’ ” which turns into the most successful rock song of last year. I mean, I woke up every morning I think for the last year like, (sings), “I’m beggin’, beggin’ you”… (laughter) … It just gets in my head, and then I’m like, come on, just get out!
David: Yeah, it’s our fault, it’s our fault, (laughter). Well, it’s not even our fault because we didn’t even promote it. It’s TikTok’s fault. It just got viral. We were pretty shocked by it. When we saw it growing, we were like, what is happening, and then we found out it was viral on TikTok and all that came about after.
Why that song? It’s a cover of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and I can’t think of a more different style than you guys and The Four Seasons.
De Angelis: Actually, we played it at first, when we just started, and we think it’s way more challenging and fun to make covers of very different songs. So, like now we’re also playing “Womanizer” by Britney Spears, for example, and we just find it a challenge and stimulating, and it really makes you do an interpretation of something different and bringing it into your own. That’s when you do something good, I think.
You also covered “If I Can Dream” for the Elvis movie, what was it like singing an Elvis song? I mean, you know, “The King of Rock n’ Roll.”
David: Well, every time when we have some big deals, we try not to think about it that much because then you get like anxious, and you feel the pressure. When we had the chance to play a cover of Elvis, we didn’t feel like we were confronting Elvis because that would have been impossible, you cannot try to fight with Elvis’ heritage. We were just super happy and super glad and super honored just to have the chance to play one of his songs, and we focused on that, and we focused on doing the best that we could do on that song without even comparing it with the Elvis one because, of course, it’s untouchable.
Now you have two VMA nominations and a third number one song on the Billboard charts, “Supermodel,” can you tell me what the song is about?
De Angelis: The funny thing is that everyone thinks it’s about supermodels, but it’s not. We wrote it after being like three months in LA where we met a lot of people that were faking being supermodels or superstars. Everyone was very focused on the way they appeared and not what they’re really like or who they really were. Everyone was just trying to fake that they have the best clothes, best friends, best club, that kind of stuff, and we found it a bit stupid, of course, but it was something that we thought was only shown in movies, like a stereotype, you know, but when we saw it in person, we just thought it was fun and wanted to make a funny song about it.
I can tell you no one in New York is like that. We are very real. If you had to make a song about New York, what would it be about?
From Angelis: Ohhh… (laughs)… we need to spend more months here.
David: I think it would be like a club song, super dirty, clubbish… (laughter).
You’ve played different festivals, like Lollapalooza in Europe, but this weekend you are doing Lollapalooza in Chicago. What does it mean to play at Lollapalooza here in the US?
Raggi: Crazy, it’s huge.
De Angelis: It’s our first Festival in the USA. So, that’s like a big, big thing …
David: It’s not our first festival! We played at Coachella, c’mon! … (Laughter).
From Angelis: Whoops, that’s true, Coachella. We started this festival season this summer, and it’s only been Europe until now, so for this summer it’s the first.
Raggi: For the summer, yes.
You sing in English and Italian, but we have a lot of Italian singers who are huge in Latin America, and they sing in Spanish – Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti, Il Volo – do you think you would ever sing in Spanish?
David: Why not?
De Angelis: In Spanish?
David: I basically mostly listen to Spanish sounding music, so I would not back up… (laughs).
You’re going to launch your tour, and you’re going to Latin America, Santiago, Buenos Aires. What’s it like going to all these places, is it a culture shock when you go?
David: Yeah, you know, we have never been, outside of Ethan, we’ve never been to Latin America, and we never played there, but of course, we know something about the people there, and we know that they’re really crazy … (laughter) … hyped up, heated up, and we like these kinds of crowds. So, we can’t wait to play there, and it was one of the places that amazed me the most. When I saw the tickets that were selling, it was like “what the f**k?”, how did we get there? It was crazy, so we really can’t wait to be there.
How has fame changed you, if at all?
De Angelis: I don’t think it has changed us.
David: I’m less worried about things, actually. I guess I’m stable… (laughs).
Do you feel that fame, when you’re this well-known, it comes with a responsibility to speak out on certain political issues? A lot of artists say, I’m an entertainer, not a politician or an activist.
De Angelis: Yeah, for us, I think it comes naturally, so when we think we know enough about a topic, and we think our opinion can, like, make the difference or something we don’t feel it like as a pressure or something. It just comes naturally, and we’re happy to do it. Also, if we can share a positive message on something that really matters to us, we’re happy to do it. If not, we also don’t feel the pressure to have to do it.
You did a song in support of Ukraine, “We’re Gonna Dance on Gasoline,” how do you feel about that situation?
David: It’s really hard to say that because we feel very bad about it, but we also know that we have a huge privilege, with no worries, we’re not worried that something is going to happen to us. So, we are privileged, but of course, if we can spread knowledge about it, we are more than happy, and we feel that we have to do it because that’s something that is happening today and if we can do something today, it’s more valuable.
One of your first songs was “Zitti E Buoni,” which means “Shut Up and Behave.” It doesn’t seem like you guys are going to be doing any shutting up or behaving any time soon.
De Angelis: No, not at all.
Where do you go from here?
De Angelis: I don’t know, we feel very free. We just want to keep playing. We have so many amazing gigs and tours coming in front of us, so I think we’re really going to enjoy it and get all the possible inspiration from that and then turn it into music. We don’t want to set any specific goals, but we just want to go on and see what happens and keep getting better and doing what we feel is right.