THE future of a much-loved Southampton band considered one of the rising stars of British indie pop is in doubt after music equipment worth thousands was stolen.

Members of The Novatones are devastated at the theft, which includes a distinctive union jack guitar which the band was named after.

Frontman Anthony Pittman told the Daily Echo that he was 'heartbroken' at the loss of the rare customised £1,500 Epiphone Supernova which has become a symbol of the band and has been played at illustrious venues including the Isle of Wight Festival main stage.

The guitar is unique as it has had the Noel Gallagher signed pickguard removed and had wristbands from all the festivals The Novatones have played at tied to its neck.

He said: "I'm absolutely heartbroken. Lots of people associate the band with that guitar and it's been all over the place with us. It wore our festival wristbands with pride, a bit like an officer would wear his medals!

"We're just a normal bunch of lads who didn't take music at college and don't have any industry contacts. We're proud of what we've achieved as a band, but this is gutting.

"It's not easy, we definitely don't make any money from the band. I just think it's hard enough struggling to get on as a band without having to try to find that sort of money.

"I'm lucky enough to have two fit and healthy children and I know it's only a guitar and it's only money, but it has taken the fun out of it all.

"We are really not sure what's next. The financial burden of these items not being returned could mean the end for this band.

"Please keep your eyes peeled."

Anthony is confident he would know his guitar, which he nicknamed Sharon, anywhere.

Epiphone Supernovas are no longer made and rarely come up for sale, but a similar one is currently being auctioned online for £1,500, although they can reach £2,000 or more.

The items stolen from the van, which Anthony uses for work as a floor layer as well as for band practice and gigs, also include his only other electric guitar, a MIM Fender Telecaster worth around £650, and two Vox VT100 amplifiers, worth £350 each.

He believes the theft took place in a layby just off the M3 junction 3 near Woking on Thursday, but he did not discover it until a few days later.