Treaty Oak Revival hails from the Lone Star State, and it's clear the country rock band has brought its self-sufficient Texas attitude along for the ride as they tour the nation in support of their sophomore studio album, Have a Nice Day. The LP, released on Thanksgiving without the support of a label, is undeniably country, but it also has a soaring bite that's equal parts emo, power pop and old school hard rock.
"We wanted to make songs that were fun to play," frontman Sam Canty tells Q. "You kind of want to do that if you're going to play them hundreds of times… If we're happy, the fans will be happy."
The group's lineage can be traced back to a cover band called Free Spirit that practiced in the back of a now-shuttered vacuum shop in Odessa, Texas. By the time Canty was invited to join in 2019, the practices had devolved into informal jam sessions. The singer shared a few original songs he had been working on including "Boomtown" and "One Time Thing." The other musicians were impressed and decided to start taking the jam sessions more seriously.
The band is named after the Treaty Oak in Austin, an ancient tree which generations of Native American used as a sacred meeting place. But the members thought three words would sound better, which led them to tack "revival" onto the end as an homage to groups like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Folk Soul Revival. They played their first show in 2019 at Odessa's historic Ector Theater.
The members quickly got to work on their 2021 studio debut No Vacancy, which was mostly based on tracks Canty wrote alone over the course of eight years. The album's lyrics are directly based on personal experiences he had living in and around Odessa. "There were a lot of sad and angry times I had in West Texas which gave birth to some pretty sad and angry songs," Canty said. The release has a softer sound that's more reminiscent of red dirt country than the band's later work.
"By the time we were ready to start getting to work on this new album, we were in more of a rock headspace," Canty said. The frontman was also determined to emulate his idols in Drive-By Truckers by penning lyrics based on other people's stories instead of his own. Many of the tracks were composed in a one-bedroom apartment Canty was renting in Midland at the time. These writing sessions had an informal hangout vibe. Friends of the band were often present.
One of those onlookers shared a story about an experience his grandfather had while high on mushrooms. The man tripped so hard that he believed he had been abducted by aliens. That inspired Canty to write "Close Encounters," a song about a West Texas property owner who sees strange lights appear on his land one night. He goes out to confront what he believes to be a group of rowdy teens but is promptly captured and brought aboard an alien spaceship.
Most of the other songs on the album are more grounded, including "Fishnets." Canty described that track as a love song about a prostitute. "No matter how many men she's with, she just wants love," he said. "But she'll never find it."
Canty stressed that the writing process for Have a Nice Day was deeply collaborative. "If you look at the song credits, it's the entire band," he said. The frontman brought raw ideas to the rest of the members so they could be refined and fleshed out in a group setting.
The band recorded Have a Nice Day at the Panhandle House in Denton with producer Taylor Kimball, whom Lance had connected with on Instagram. Kimball has also worked with Texas upstarts like Kody West, Austin Meade and Giovannie and the Hired Guns.
Lead guitarist Jeremiah Vanley, Lance's uncle, achieved Have a Nice Day's signature sultry guitar tone with a Marshall JTM100. He wanted to channel Eddie Van Halen on the record. Lance and the group's new drummer Cody Holloway grew up playing in metal bands, but the rhythm guitarist said he was listening to a lot of post-hardcore and pop punk like Underoath, Blink-182 and Mae during the recording process. Andrew Carey tried to create spacey, feedback-heavy bass lines in the vein of the Dirty Nil, Pup and Fidlar for the album.
Canty said these modern rock influences are common among young country artists and that they'll likely continue to drive a stylistic wedge through the scene. "All of us grew up listening to that on mainstream radio," he said. "Going forward, I think you're going to have a rock faction and a more traditional faction."
Treaty Oak Revival's two albums were both released without the support of a label. Despite that independent status, the band has managed to open for top-tier country acts like Zach Bryan and Aaron Watson. That success is partly due to the group's patience, maturity and fiscal responsibility, business manager Eli Kidd said: "They've run it like a business since day one… Everyone understood that there were going to be sacrifices." Lance noted that every member still had a full-time day job until the middle of 2023.
Although the band has no plans to sign with a label any time soon, Kidd didn't want to rule that out as a possibility. "Right now we just want to see where this record ends up and let the dust settle," the manager said.
Have a Nice Day is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music.