Dark Trilobite: Whitman’s part-time rockstars


Photo courtesy Evan Solnik

The members of Dark Trilobite, (L to R) Evan Solnik, Sammy Rabinowitz, Alfonso Lopez, Max Mendelsohn and Isabella Cymrot, pose on Mendelsohn’s car

By Kendall Headley

Junior Evan Solnik sits in a silent Zoom breakout room after finishing his assigned classwork. As his muted classmates engage in other tasks, his gaze falls onto his bass, the strings begging to be strummed. He gives in, grabs the bass and begins to play, running through familiar chord progressions and tinkering with new ones until the breakout session ends.

Solnik is a member of Dark Trilobite, a band of five high school students from Whitman, Georgetown Day School and Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The band formed through a local music school when the members were in elementary school. Now, as juniors and seniors in high school, they have an EP available on all major streaming platforms.

Impromptu practice sessions, like Solnik’s stunt in class, are not uncommon in the Solnik household — Bern Solnik, Evan’s father, shares Evan’s love for music. When Evan and his brother were younger, Bern introduced them to the world of music by teaching them simple chords. Growing up, Evan played several musical instruments, including the bass and guitar. 

At six years old, Evan decided he wanted to pursue his love for music outside of the comfort of his basement, so he enrolled in Bach to Rock, a music school in Bethesda for students of all ages and skill levels.

“They have a band program there where if you say, ‘I want to be in a band,’ they’ll find kids around your age and skill level, put you all together and give you an instructor,” Evan said. “You’ll be able to do some cool songs together, and they have competitions. It’s a great way to start.”

Bern, a band member and songwriter himself, understands the difficulty of mastering instruments, especially at a young age. He was impressed with the progress Evan had made after only a few months.

“When I would go pick him up from his lessons, I would go a few minutes early and peek in, and sometimes the kids were running around the room like moths out of a container,” Bern said. “One day when I came to pick him up, though, these cats were playing a song — beginning to end — and it was actually nice to listen to.”

Bach to Rock’s program gave the kids many opportunities to play gigs and perform on stage in the D.C. area, including at venues like the 9:30 Club, Villain & Saint and Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle. Performing at these venues allowed the young musicians to experience playing in front of a live audience, one of the most exciting parts of being in a band, Bern said. 

As Dark Trilobite’s chemistry and musical skills strengthened, they decided to leave Bach to Rock and venture out on their own. The group quickly settled into a rhythm as an independent band, working together to set up gigs and write new songs for their EP.

“As a band, when it really came to stepping out, it was freshman year,” Evan said. “We released an EP on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music — all the streaming platforms — and then had an EP release party.”

Two years after leaving Bach to Rock, the group reconnected with one of their old instructors, Stanley Edwards, to take private lessons. Edwards taught the group when the members were in elementary school, pushing them out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to play more difficult songs by bands like Paramore and The Beatles.

“The only way they were going to grow was to bring something to them that they thought they couldn’t handle,” Edwards said. “They never had a teacher not accept failure, not accept that they didn’t practice. I would beat that down because I don’t believe music is a part of life — I believe music is life.”

Although it had only been two years, Edwards saw the group’s progress and commitment to being musicians.

“The fact it was two years later and they were still playing told me a lot about their character and what they thought about music,” Edwards said. “Seeing them branching out, excelling and adopting my ‘get it right or go home’ personality has been great to watch.”

Joining a band as tight-knit as Dark Trilobite was intimidating for junior Alfonso Lopez, who joined the group in February after first connecting with Evan through Pyle’s jazz band. The two became close friends in their sophomore year of high school when they would hang out to “jam,” Lopez said.

Lopez joined the group as a guitarist but also dabbles in singing. Although the original members were already very close, Lopez had no trouble fitting in.

“Everybody knew each other really well — their interactions were like siblings,” Lopez said. “But everyone in the group is really nice and has a big musical background, so I was able to connect with them on a bunch of levels.”

When Lopez was four, his family purchased a piano for his older sister, sparking Lopez’s interest in music. At the time, he couldn’t read sheet music, but the sounds that the piano produced fascinated him. He quickly became passionate about music, experimenting with both the bass and the drums until eventually falling in love with the guitar after receiving one for his sixth birthday.

“I see the guitar as an escape,” Lopez said. “If I’m bored or just not having a good time overall, I’d rather just play guitar.”

As Lopez integrated into the group, he adjusted to their collaborative creative process that incorporates each member’s personal style. Most of their songwriting begins when one of the guitarists — Lopez or GDS junior Max Mendelsohn — or Evan, the bassist, comes up with a chord progression or riff. Then, DESA junior Sammy Rabinowitz proceeds to interpret what he’s hearing on the drums. When the beat sounds right, GDS senior Isabella Cymrot, the lead singer, comes in with melody and lyrics.

Writing a song is all about finding a “groove,” Rabinowitz said.

“We’re like, ‘Okay, that’s part A,’ and then you take the key and find a different part or a bridge,” he said. “You start building the structure and it’s all up from there.”

The band meets to practice every Wednesday for an hour and every Saturday for two hours, but Dark Trilobite’s time commitment doesn’t end there. Outside of practice, group members spend hours perfecting their own parts, composing chord progressions and looking for potential gigs. Evan sees being in the band as a similar regimen to a student-athlete, he said. 

“You do your homework, and you put school first,” Evan said. “Then, in your free time, instead of watching TV, you do something productive like practicing a song.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has continued writing new songs and improving old ones. The group was unable to meet in person for a few months due to social distancing regulations, but, with precautions, they’ve now resumed a regular practice schedule. In November, the group had their first gig back on stage in Falls Church, Virginia. At the show, social distancing regulations were enforced and masks were mandated, Evan said.

Currently, the group is working on recording new music at Blue Room Productions in Bethesda. Their new single, “Wish Bone,” became available on Spotify and Apple Music in early December. Lopez believes that the band’s best music is yet to come.

“Right now, we have a bunch of momentum,” Lopez said. “When this virus is over, there will be big things right there for us.”