“It’s something that’s really special to me because it’s the first album I’ve written where I’m not just rehashing breakups I had when I was 24,” Stokes says. “This one is a bit more cerebral, and it’s a bit more reflective on the stage of my life that I’m in now: I’m starting a family, I’m settling down, I’m mentally and emotionally more stable.”
The first single, “Real Good,” an ode to learning how to thrive while you’re trying to survive, recalls Margo Price’s left-of-center Americana. It’s a personal record — “I didn’t hold back on it,” she says — but she’s also telling stories, which is new, weaving those more personal moments into universal narratives.
When Stokes and Berger aren’t making music together or raising their daughter (named after Sylvia Plath), she’s teaching all ages guitar, ukulele, piano and songwriting at Bach to Rock Lansdowne (over Zoom), or working as a barista at King Street Coffee. That also happens to be where her perfect D.C. day, which includes Berger, Sylvia, and her parents, begins.
My husband, daughter and I are going to take my parents into the city with us today. But the first thing we’re doing is going to King Street Coffee in downtown Leesburg, which is the shop that I work at. We serve traditional espresso and we’ve been there for 40 years so it really is a very mom-and-pop kind of old town shop. Because we’re all dead inside, we’re all going to get black coffees. There’s a lot of great things on the menu but I prefer high octane. Also, my mom drinks black coffee so it’s a bit of a Norwegian thing. We have to be, like, very angry dockworkers.
Then we’re going to hit the road and go into D.C. We are going to the National Zoo. Honestly, even if I didn’t have a child I would go to the zoo. It has some of my very favorite memories from childhood. Much like a library, there are so few places in America these days where you can just exist without paying for something. I love the reptile house. She loves cats because we have four cats, so she thinks she’s a cat. She hisses at the cats so maybe she would like the lions.
Then we’re going to Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe and we’re going to look through the records. This will be midday, so there won’t be a show going on, we’ll just enjoy the wonderful record store they’ve curated. I’m pretty open to records because our collection is still growing. The first couple of ones I got were Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks and stuff, but those were just kind of the obvious ones. I’ve played there a couple of times. It’s one of my favorite places to play. I love how intimate it feels, and I love Adams Morgan.
We’re going to go to Sakuramen. I love ramen, and I ate at this very specific ramen spot many times when I was pregnant. In my dream day, my daughter is down to eat some mild noodles. I’ve experimented with a lot of different things, but I got kimchi and pork belly the last time I was there. I was a hungry pregnant lady all those times.
We’re going to Meridian Hill Park, which is Will’s idea. He loves to bring a hammock and relax. We can have some nice family time as well. This is also where it becomes very crucial that I brought my parents because now they take Sylvia and they go home while we stay in D.C.
Will and I go see a show at the Black Cat, which is one of our favorite venues, and it’s a venue that we’ve both played at and seen multiple shows. I like the size of it. It’s a venue that, as an artist, it would be ambitious to fill the Black Cat but it’s also not as crazy as getting booked at the Anthem. It’s a venue that I could potentially see us playing and not totally bombing like within the next couple of years. I’d love to see Phoebe Bridgers there — maybe with her bands Boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center, too. I really like how bold she is with her lyrics. Sometimes I’ll write lyrics and I’ll be like, that’s too specific, no one’s going to get that. She’ll say things that are very specific and very evocative and they always work.
This is the most important part of the day. We’re going to go across the street to Amsterdam Falafelshop. This is perhaps what it’s all been leading up to. This is a very important falafel place to me for no reason other than that it’s crazy delicious. In 2018 I played a benefit at the Black Cat that was a Radiohead tribute. I sang “No Surprises,” which was second to last so I white knuckled it the whole show. And then immediately went to the falafel place. I was enjoying my falafel so much that I actually swallowed part of my plastic fork and I didn’t even realize it because of how good it was.