Not many people could call on a multi-million-selling rock band to play at their wedding.
But as co-frontman of Mike + The Mechanics, that was what happened for Tim Howar last September. And for him it was proof that the band’s chemistry is as strong as ever.
‘Everybody was there,’ he tells The Guide. ‘All the band and as many of the crew as could make it. My boys came out and blew the roof off the venue and then we had a great time partying. You don’t get that with other bands – they might come to the wedding, but Mike said: “Shall we play the wedding?” And I went, “Yeah, absolutely!”’
Mike + The Mechanics started life as a side project by Genesis co-founder Mike Rutherford, scoring huge hits in its own right with The Living Years, All I Need Is A Miracle and Looking Back Over My Shoulder.
But what began as a means for the guitarist to express himself outside of the confines of Genesis appears to have outlasted the parent band, which released its last studio album 20 years ago.
Since 2010, The Mechanics has featured Andrew Roachford and Howar as its two lead vocalists – they replaced Paul Young, who died of a heart attack and Paul Carrack, who left to pursue a solo career.
People want to hear those older songs and we love playing them, but they’re really gracious fans and very accepting of the new musicTim Howar
And now they are back with their first album in six years – Let Me Fly.
The Mechanics last toured two years ago, but this time out they’ve got the new material to share.
‘We did a gig last night in Gateshead and it was awesome – sold out, everyone was on their feet and enjoying it. The audience reaction to the new songs in the set has been better than I anticipated.
‘Sometimes the fans are just there to hear the songs that made them fall in love with the band and it puts their noses out of joint if you play too many new songs. People want to hear those older songs and we love playing them, but they’re really gracious fans and very accepting of the new music.
‘We’ve been putting six or seven new songs in among the big hits and things from the past albums and it’s going down a storm.
‘Before our first gig in Belfast, I said to Mike: “Are we really going to do this many?” But we’ve kept them in and been working on them.’
Getting back together for a new album wasn’t always a sure thing, but as Tim explains: ‘It’s because we have a really good time together and enjoy each other’s company and artistry.
‘I think that’s the main thing, we all have a different piece to put in the puzzle and we feed each other and it’s a much bigger thing than we could do by ourselves.
‘We’re up for it now, we’ve had our break and we’re ready.’
And the roots of the new album lay in that last tour.
‘A couple of years ago, we were not mucking about, but trying things out in soundcheck and it would kind of evolve into a sound. We’d take that idea back to the studio and come up with some lyrics for it. Let Me Fly was a product of that and was our first foray into a new song. What was different this time around was that we knew the ingredients, we know who’s on stage and what they do and do well, we kind of know the sound that we’ve got, and Mike knows how to stretch that sound.’
The resulting 12 tracks are, as Howar says: ‘They’re all very different – there are pieces that sound a bit like Crowded House, some that sound a bit like The Killers meets Duran Duran, some that are a bit like The Eagles. That’s the thing – we can paint with a lot of different colours, if I can use a visual term to talk about music! But they all have that Mechanics flavour. We’ve got a certain sound – you’re not changing what goes on the plate, you’re just changing a bit of the sauce.’
Tim has also found his own feet more in the band.
‘Paul Young was well-loved. He was an enigmatic performer, he was larger than life, and when you replace someone like that because they’ve died, people are fiercely loyal to that element of the band.
‘Looking back at my responsibilities in the band, what I tell myself is that I’m trying to keep Paul’s legacy alive, to keep his music out there.
‘He was a great songwriter and a great singer – he could belt it out. Luckily I can go there in the performance and give the fans a little bit back.
‘It’s taken some of the fans a bit of time to come around to the new line-up, but now they’re really behind it.
And he has no problem sharing vocal duties with the Cuddly Toy hit-maker Roachford.
‘First up I’m a huge Andrew Roachford fan, so just being on stage with him is amazing, and we’re really great friends right now. There’s enough room in The Mechanics’ repertoire for both of us. There have been times where I can’t do a certain thing, or he can’t and he’s piped up for me and vice versa.
‘We look out for each other and when there’s that combination, it makes it much easier to give 100 per cent because you know your back’s covered, you know you’ve got someone who’s got your best interests and the band’s best interests in mind as a performer and a friend.
‘I get to sing harmonies for Andrew, he gets to sing harmonies for me, and share songs. It’s a really cool way to do it, and it gives us a wider dynamic. We can really lay it down.’
n Mike + The Mechanics play Portsmouth Guildhall on Saturday, March 25, doors 7pm. Tickets £36.25 to £41.75. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk