A strikingly independent and original talent, Brian Dewan blends whimsy tradition and a subversive sense of humor into his many projects, which include (and sometimes combine) music, artwork, and furniture-making. A resident of Brooklyn's Williamsburg section, Dewan plays an orchestra's worth of quirky instruments, including the autoharp, accordion, Moog, and theremin -- as well as guitar and organ -- but his signature instrument is the electric zither, which he built in 1989 from pieces of an electric guitar and a harpsichord. With its eight humbucker pickups and 88 strings, it resembles an overgrown autoharp, and is the key to Dewan's avant yet approachable folk-rock.
Along with writing for and playing with the Blue Man Group, Dewan collaborated with artists like the Sixths, Drink Me, Brian Woodbury, Laura Cantrell, and most notably cousin Leon Dewan, with whom he created Dewanatron, a project which revolves around the duo's homemade, custom cabinetry synthesizers. He has also worked with his good friends They Might Be Giants several times, touring with them, providing artwork for albums like Lincoln and the singles compilation Miscellaneous T, singing some of the song snippets on Apollo 18, and releasing two singles on John Flansburgh's Hello CD series.
In between his collaborations and other projects, Dewan released his debut album, Brian Dewan Tells the Story, in 1993 and followed it with 1998's The Operating Theatre, which was re-released in 2001 by Instinct Records. In 2007 Dewan issued Words of Wisdom, a compilation of songs that Dewan rescued from yard sales, old school textbooks, and various basements and attics. It was to be the first installment of his semi-annual Humanitarium series for the Eschatone label.
As a visual artist, Dewan designed artwork for David Byrne's Uh-Oh, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and the Music Tapes' First Imaginary Symphony for Nomad, among others. He also makes I-Can-See Filmstrips, which satirize the authoritarian nature of educational films, giving his shows a multimedia dimension. Dewan's other projects and appearances include a typically quirky commercial spot for MTV's music-only channel M2, writing music for Sesame Street, and writing and performing as a member of the Raymond Scott Orchestra. ~ Heather Phares