(Originally written for Probemusic, December 2001)

Unsigned does not necessarily mean new. Unsigned does not necessarily mean worthless. Unsigned, crucially, does not necessarily mean unsignable. Newcastle-based Spraydog have been pissing their brand of coruscating distort-pop against the musical lampost since 1996, mostly for Ferric Mordant, the label set up by their guitarist Phil Tyler. They are unsigned and very happy about it. Phil: "What does signed mean? We've released loads of records and never signed a thing. No-one's ever asked us to sign anything and I'd happily carry on as we are."

Surely not? "It's about control isn't it? We don't sell thousands of records, but we control what we do. Which side do you go on, integrity or sales? Most of the stories you hear about people who get signed are bad - I hardly ever hear someone say they got signed and it was great. It's always grief and then they leave the label and split."

But think of the money. "That's another reason not to get signed. If I did get to that situation, I wouldn't want an advance. I know that's why people want to get signed, get a million pounds or something. But the record company aren't giving it you, you have to pay it back.. Once you know about these pitfalls you wonder why anyone ever gets signed."

Spraydog are about to release their third album, Mint Hand, and seventh single, Girls Know Girls, on London-based indie label Stupid Cat. Pretty much all their previous records have been compared to Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr and nothing is going to change this time around. It's their understated perfection, their layers of distortion and their all-but obscured underlying pop nous. It sounds like the songs just slide effortlessly off the guitars. "We work really hard at the band, but we just don't work hard running around trying to get signed. It's like: what do you want to achieve?"

So what do they want to achieve? "I really want to make records that I like and play gigs that aren't empty. We've done two Peel sessions and three albums and there's a lot of bands, really good bands, who never get to do that. On one level, we've achieved things. But getting heard... I think a lot of people would like us if they heard us, but the distribution and means of hearing it is tied up with a few people with different aims other than music."

So what would Phil say to other bands? What inspired him? "The Slampt label. I think having the Slampt guide to putting out a record was pretty useful. And DIY. Do it yourself and help other bands to do it themselves."

Mint Hand is out in January. www.spraydog.co.uk

: reviews : interviews : live : features : shop : search: contact