The Indie Darlings

Joe Pugliese

Jeff Tweedy & Tony Margherita

What is this, Band Manager Fancy?" Wilco's singer, Tweedy, ribs his longtime adviser Margherita midprimp. Playfully, of course, since these two go back 24 years, to the days when they worked at a St. Louis record store (Margherita was the boss, Tweedy a clerk) with nary a concept of Grammys, gold plaques or sold-out tours. Yet today, after two major-label deals (following stints at Reprise and Nonesuch, the band went fully indie in 2011, partnering with Anti Records for its Grammy-nominated The Whole Love), one documentary (2002's I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, in part chronicling the injustices of said labels) and 3.1 million albums sold, the nature of their relationship hasn't changed all that much. They're all about "talking on a daily basis, 90 percent of the time about shit that doesn't have anything to do with what we're supposed to be talking about," Tweedy, 44, cracks. Adds Margherita, 52, "There's an amount of trust and faith that makes it easier to do the job." They must be on to something because Wilco, formed from the ashes of alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo in 1994, is having one of its best years yet, with Love ranked on nearly 80 Best of 2011 lists and a best rock album Grammy nomination, for which Tweedy makes no apologies. "We won," he declares. "I'm not just talking about us, but indie rock and smart-people music. I'm proud that it's reached a broad audience, and I think it's OK to go to something like the Grammys and represent." And while Tweedy acknowledges that a red carpet logjammed with the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry does feel like a "different universe," he sees Wilco's place clearly: "It's more like you're infiltrating or interloping, that's how I look at it."

Photographed by Joe Pugliese on Jan. 24 at The Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood